Since 1899, the Dreyfus Affair has been the subject of a number of films as well as many photographs, particularly during the Rennes trial and afterwards—although a photograph from January 1895 does exists. It shows the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire and, although blurry, one can make out the moment Captain Dreyfus is being stripped of his rank. This photo and other little-known images were exhibited in 2006, first in Aurillac and then in Mulhouse. The occasion was a show that was mounted by Vincent Duclert and Brigitte Lépine, under the title of L'affaire Dreyfus révélée. Photos et photographes dans l'événement.

Au moment des faits

The cameraman Julius W. Orde filmed several scenes in Rennes in the summer of 1899. That same year, his four minutes of images were intercut with reconstructed scenes filmed by Georges Méliès for his eleven-minute film The Dreyfus Affair. Méliès, a filmmaker and a Dreyfusard, was sometimes inspired by photographs.

Première moitié du XXe siècle

Most of the moving images stored in various archives around the world are reconstructions, faked newsreels filmed in a studio, or elements of films that either aspired to be evocations of the Affair, or footage inserted into descriptions of the Belle Époque.
In 1902, Ferdinand Zecca made a silent film entitled The Dreyfus Affair; he was co-director of another film of the same name, that he made in 1908 with Lucien Nonguet. Pathé distributed them, but these films were banned in France starting in 1915, in the interests of keeping the peace.

The first talking films about the Affair were made outside of France, and they were not authorized to be shown in France. These include:

  • Dreyfus, a film from 1930, based on a screenplay by Heinz Goldberg and Fritz Wendhausen after a book by Bruno Weil. It was directed by Richard Oswald, a German filmmaker who made a film about Cagliostro in 1929. This 90-minute film featured only German actors, including Fritz Kortner as Dreyfus;
  • Dreyfus, The Case, filmed in England in 1931 by F.W. Kraemer et Milton Rosmer based on a play by Wilhelm Herzog. Cedric Hardwicke played the Captain in this 89-minute film.
  • The Life of Emile Zola, directed by William Dieterle in 1937, in which Joseph Schildkraut plays Alfred Dreyfus. The Daladier government banned this 116-minute film, and managed to have it withdrawn from the Venice Film Festival for "undermining the honor of the French army." It was finally authorized to be shown in France in 1954.

Après la seconde guerre mondiale

I Accuse! (1958), a 99-minute film directed by José Ferrer, was released almost immediately in France under the title L'affaire Dreyfus. However, it was not until the last three decades of the 20th century that the subject was addressed by French television.
In 1965, Jean Vigne made an 18-minute documentary, as part of the series Les Aventures de la Liberté, and Jean Chérasse created a 90-minute documentary in 1974: Dreyfus, l'Intolérable Vérité, which featured reconstructed scenes and interviews with politicians such as Michel Debré, Edgar Faure, Alain Krivine and François Mitterrand; in it, François Mauriac explains the Affair as "an episode of civil war", although Jeanne Lévy, Dreyfus's daughter, reads a letter from her father, and recalls that he was never bitter about what had happened.
In the spirit of this production, another documentary appeared in 1995, this time by Paule Zadjzerman. Le Sabre Brisé (The Broken Sword) was an 81-minute enquiry by Philippe Oriol, in which various public figures and young people talked about the various forms of anti-Semitism in France.


In 1978, a television show, Les Dossiers de l'Ecran, broadcast Émile Zola ou la Conscience Humaine (Emile Zola or the Human Conscience); Stellio Lorenzi introduced a debate about human rights based on broadcasts concerning the Zola trial.
In 1995, the public television station Antenne 2 showed L'affaire Dreyfus, a two-part television film by Yves Boisset, based on a script by Jorge Semprun.

Within the framework of the centenary of the Affair, a number of documentaries appeared. These included:

  • For the Centre National de Documentation Pédagogique, a 26-minute film written and directed by Professor Pierre Sorlin, La Raison d'État : chronique de l'affaire Dreyfus (1894-1899)
  • For Les Brûlures de l'histoire, Pascal Ory's program on France 3, L'affaire Dreyfus directed by Robert Mugnerot (1994)
  • For the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel and Arte, a film by Robert Bober and Pierre Dumayet, À la lumière de "J'accuse" (1998)
  • For the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, for a 2003 exhibition of the work of Tim, the sculptor of the Parisian statue of Dreyfus, Michel Grosman created a 15-minute film entitled Dreyfus Aujourd'hui (Dreyfus Today).

In most of these productions, the Dreyfus Affair is depicted as being nearly finished after the 1899 pardon; Dreyfus's nearly six-year struggle to obtain complete rehabilitation and the proclamation of his innocence are not dealt with. A few images show the 21 July 1906 ceremony in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire. It is true that, for Dreyfus, this was a "a day of elation" thanks to the military honors that were paid to him by two squadrons of the 1st armored cavalry and two horse batteries, and also due to the "delicious embraces" of all those whom he loved.

As a complement to the major exhibition Alfred Dreyfus Le combat pour la justice, which took place in Paris from June to October 2006, curated by Hélène Hoog, the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme held a five-day retrospective entitled Dreyfus à l'écran (Dreyfus on Screen). The historian Livia Parnès and film historians Sébastien Denis and Ariel Schweitzer designed the program that was implemented at the museum by MAHJ by Corinne Bacharach and Marie Blanquet.