Magazine article Screen International

Oscar-Winning French Director Pierre Schoendoerffer Dies

Magazine article Screen International

Oscar-Winning French Director Pierre Schoendoerffer Dies

Article excerpt

Legendary war cameraman, filmmaker and writer won an Oscar in 1968 for his documentary The Anderson Platoon, following American soldiers in Vietnam.

Legendary French war cameraman and filmmaker Pierre Schoendoerffer, whose works include the Oscar-winning documentary The Anderson Platoon, has died at the age of 83.

Having started out on a career with the merchant navy, Schoendoerffer made his first foray into filmmaking as a war cameraman for the French army in Vietnam, then French Indochina, at the height of the First Indochina War between French forces and communist Viet Minh fighters.

While there, he made his first short documentary First Indochina War Rushes and also captured the historic battle of Dien Bien Phu, which led to the surrender of French troops and eventual withdrawal of France from the territory.

Captured by Viet Minh forces on May 1954, Schoendoerffer spent four months in a Viet Minh re-education camp, where he met the Russian documentary maker Roman Karmen, who was shooting the war from a communist perspective.

Schoendoerffer would recount these experiences in his 1992 feature Dien Bien Phu, about an American reporter who finds himself caught up in the battle.

Throughout the late 1950s, Schoendoerffer covered Vietnam as a civilian war reporter-photographer working for several outlets including Paris Match and Time, also stopping off in Taipei, Japan, Hawaii and Hong Kong, where he met writer Joseph Kessel.

Schoendoerffer recounted his Indochina adventures to Kessel and a long-life friendship was sealed. In 1958, Kessel called upon Schoendoerffer to direct his Afghanistan set The Devil's Pass alongside Jacques Dupont with Raoul Coutard, who would go on to work with Jean Luc Godard, as cinematographer. …

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