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Au Revoir Les Enfants is based on events in the childhood of the director, Louis Malle, who at age 11 was attending a Roman Catholic boarding school near Fontainebleau. One day, he witnessed a Gestapo raid in which three Jewish students and a Jewish teacher were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. The school’s headmaster, Lucien Bunel – Père Jacques de Jesus, was arrested for harboring them and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. He died shortly after the camp was liberated by the American Army, having refused to leave until the last French prisoner was repatriated. Forty years later Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, granted Père Jacques the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
The film won the Golden Lion award at the 1987 Venice Film Festival. At the 1988 César Awards, it won in seven categories, including Best Director, Best Film, and Best Writing. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay at the 60th Academy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 Golden Globe Awards.