ZOriginal Title: Z
Director: Costa Gavras
France, Algeria | French
The letter Z means “He is alive' in ancient Greek; with brutal irony the film Z
is based on the real-life assassination of left-wing activist and opposition leader Gregorios Lambrakis in Greece. The most successful work by Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras, who made it his life’s work to root out stories of oppression and injustice, Z
won a jury prize at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director and Best screenplay. An Algerian co-production, filmed partially in the country, its scathing political realism became a permanent influence on independent Arab cinema.
On May 22, 1963, Lambrakis was fatally injured in what was detailed as a ‘traffic accident’. The accident theory didn’t stick, and the government appointed an investigator. His tacit duty was to reaffirm the official version of the death, but his enquiry convinced him that Lambrakis had, indeed, been assassinated by a clandestine right-wing organization. High-ranking army and police officials were implicated; the entire political system was compromised
All this is vividly brought to life in Costa-Gavras’ pulse-pounding thriller with Yves Montand as the prominent politician and doctor whose public murder amid a violent demonstration is covered up by military and government officials; Jean-Louis Trintignant as the tenacious investigator
who is determined not to let them get away with it; and Irene Papas as the strong-willed widow. Featuring Françoise Bonnot’s kinetic, rhythmic editing, Raoul Coutard’s expressive
vérité photography and Mikis Theodorakis’s unforgettable, propulsive score, Z
is a political cry of rage and an emotionally gripping masterpiece.
– Mohammad Khawaja