French filmmaker Pierre Schoendoerffer is dead: family

AFP Relax NewsMarch 14, 2012
French director Pierre Schoendoerffer at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in 2010

Oscar-winning French filmmaker, novelist and war reporter Pierre Schoendoerffer, a renowned chronicler of conflicts from Vietnam to Algeria, has died aged 83, his family said Wednesday.

"Pierre Schoendoerffer, writer, director, documentary maker, vice president of the cinema and audiovisual section of the Academie des Beaux-Arts, died this morning at Percy military hospital," his family said in a statement.

A founding member of the Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars, Schoendoerffer launched his career with the French military film service during war in Indochina, following a brief stint as a merchant sailor.

He filmed the war's climactic battle, the 1954 defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu, and was afterward held as a prisoner of war for four months.

Schoendoerffer left the military following the war but remained in Vietnam to work as a reporter for French and US publications including Paris Match, Time and Life.

Returning to France in 1955, he set himself up as a roaming correspondent, writer and filmmaker, returning many times to Vietnam and covering conflicts such as the Algerian War.

His experiences during the Indochina War would mark his most famous works in France: "Le Crabe-Tambour" ("The Drummer Crab"), which won three Cesars in 1977, and "La 317e Section" ("The 317th Platoon"), based on his own novel and winner of best screenplay at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival.

He returned to Vietnam for his 1967 Oscar-winning documentary, "The Anderson Platoon", which looked at the lives of a platoon of US soldiers fighting in the country.

He returned to the conflict again in 1991 with the film "Dien Bien Phu", about a US war correspondent covering the fateful battle.

Born in 1928 in the central French town of Chamalieres, Schoendoerffer had three children, including filmmaker Frederic Schoendoerffer.