MacArthur Fellows Program

Marcel Ophuls

Documentary Filmmaking | Class of 1991

Documentary Filmmaking
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
64 at time of award
Area of Focus
Moving Image
Published July 1, 1991

About Marcel's Work

Marcel Ophuls is a documentary filmmaker whose work defines and analyzes our cultural and social collective memories.

Ophuls is recognized as a pioneer of a documentary method that asks awkward questions of interview-subjects and employs their digression and self-reflection.  His film, The Sorrow and the Pity (1970), uses such candid interviews and Nazi newsreel footage to reveal episodes of resistance and collaboration in the occupied town of Clermont-Ferrand, France, during World War II. His film, Hotel Terminus (1988), again explores the World War II era, exposing the wartime activities of Nazi collaborator, Klaus Barbie, and chronicling the forty-year search in order to bring him to trial for war crimes in 1983.


Ophuls has produced historical documentaries for television and theaters on subjects such as the My Lai massacre, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the civil war in Northern Ireland.  Like most of his films, they combine interviews and scholarly research with archival footage.  His other films include Fire at Will (1964), America Revisited (1972), and The Memory of Justice (1976).  He worked in television production in France, Germany, and the United States, and taught film at Princeton University (1973-1974).

Ophuls studied at Occidental College, Los Angeles (1946-1949), and the Université de Paris (1950).

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of Marcel Ophuls
October 8, 2015
" Famed Documentarian Marcel Ophuls Turns Camera on Self for Memoir"
San Francisco Chronicle
Marcel Ophuls , 1991 MacArthur Fellow
February 28, 2015
"Witness to a Century: Marcel Ophüls"
Marcel Ophuls , 1991 MacArthur Fellow
More Fellows

View All 1991 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.
Connect with us on social media or view all of our social media content in one place.