Hungarian filmmaker Laszlo Nemes has picked up the Grand Prix award for his Holocaust drama ‘Son of Saul’.

Son of Saul is based in 1944 and follows a Jewish man forced to work in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and dispose of the dead, when he thinks he finds the body of his son among the victims.

When asked how his film is different to others, Nemes described his frustration with many of the recent films about the Holocaust. “Fiction films have been telling the story of survival. The history of the camps was not about survival, the history of the camps were about death.” He continued, “I think the unimaginable should be imagined, because then the audiences will have more empathy towards what happened.  I think we should find ways of telling this story to our generation.”

You can watch a full interview with Lazlo Nemes here.

The film uses clever camera work and a focus on Saul, with sounds and scenes around him, to depict the atrocities of the camps.  It allows the viewer to use their imagination rather than being shown the horror in graphic detail, although it is still being described as “shocking”.

The Times of Israel’s critic, Jordan Hoffman, last week hailed “Son of Saul” as “the best film of the festival.”

“Perhaps one of the most striking works of art about the Holocaust yet made.” He added, “By bringing us back inside the extermination camps in a new way, Nemes shakes up the conventions of Holocaust films that have undeniably grown predictable. This movie shocks the system.”

He concluded his review saying, “Nemes, who worked as legendary filmmaker Béla Tarr’s assistant, has come out of the gate with a masterpiece.”

‘Son of Saul’ came second place behind French filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’, a drama about a group of Sri Lankan refugees in Paris.  There is no official release date for Son of Saul, but Sony Pictures Classics purchased the USA distribution rights during the festival, so expect a release at some point in the future.

When accepting the award Nemes said, “I didn’t want to make a historical drama.  I wanted to plunge the spectator into an experience. Europe is still haunted by the destruction of the European Jews. You can feel it in Hungary. It is not just viewed as a page of history. It’s important to talk to this generation: the one that has less and less access to survivors”.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival saw a flurry of films from Jewish and Israeli artists.  One example is Natalie Portman’s directorial debut with ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’, an adaption of Amos Oz’s memoir about the birth of Israel.

It was also announced earlier this month that British actress Helen Mirren will be honoured with the World Jewish Congress recognition award. Mirren will receive the award for her role in the film “Woman in Gold” and for helping to educate the public about the issues of Nazi-looted art. The award will be presented later this year.

We are delighted to see films about Israel and the history of the Jews being given the spotlight.  It is also refreshing to see a relatively young director tackle such a big issue as the Holocaust, and to do so on his directorial debut.  He speaks with conviction about the Holocaust, which he rightfully describes as still haunting Europe.

We hope this movie, and others, will ensure that this generation does not forget what happened in those dark days of history.


Christians United for Israel – UK