A restive old lady”, she was being called in France: even at her 90 years, she was still radical and emphatically unadjusted. She was only 15 when she and her father, a Polish Jew from Lódź who had settled in France, were deported in 1944. She to Birkenau. He to Auschwitz. She survived. He didn’t. When she learned about his death, she stopped growing.
70 years later, the shock of the terrorist attacks in France made her take a radical decision: as an 85-year-old, she responded to the last sign of life from her father, a little note, secretly passed on to her in the camp. Her fictional letter (Et tu n’es pas revenue, 2015), Marceline’s view back on the political controversies of the 20th century and an intimatecritical life-confession, is the unsentimental account of a Holocaust survivor who went on to become one of the politically most uncompromising film directors. In 1961, she appeared for the first1 time on screen, as main protagonist in Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s landmark film Chronicle of a Summer, which gave birth to the cinema verité. Shortly after this initiation into a completely new way of filmmaking, she procured a camera and shot her first film on the streets of Algir (Algérie, anné zero, 1962), already committed to her life themes: revolution and emancipation.
Only in her own political exposure she seems to have found a valid justification of her existence as a survivor.
Some years later, she accompanied Dutch film revolutionist Joris Ivens, her second husband, with the camera to the front in Vietnam (La 17e parallèle, 1968), to the independence struggle in Indochina (Le peuple et ses fusils, 1969) and, in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, to China (Comment Yukong déplaça les montagnes, 1972-75). Ten years later and completely disillusioned by the Chinese politics, they shot their last film together: Une Histoire de vent (1988).
After Ivens’ death in 1989, Marceline started working on her autobiographical feature film (The Birch-Tree Meadow, 2003) -the first fiction film ever permitted to be shoot on location in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She specifically dedicated it to the female survivors of the concentration camps.
A few months before her dead, she still published another book, her third: L’amour aprés, dedicated to the female body, to love and sexuality after her Holocaust experience. “A female manifesto and ode to life”, she called it. Indeed a vibrant affirmation of life - at the age of 90.