Director’s Chair Introduction: Céline Sciamma

by Tony Cogan · September 7, 2020 · Director's Chair · No Comments

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Deadline: 3 October 2020

Hello everyone, it’s time to showcase the featured director for September here on Director’s Chair and this month I’ve decided to highlight a key figure in modern French cinema, Céline Sciamma.

Now Sciamma got her start with feature films with Water Lilies, writing the script as part of her final evaluation at French film school La Femis. The film was chosen to compete in the Un Certain Regard programme at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and garnered 3 nominations at the 2008 Cesar Awards. Sciamma followed this up with the short film Pauline, produced as part of an anti-homophobia campaign for the French government.

Her next feature length film was Tomboy which was heavily acclaimed on release, with particular praise being given to the films handling of LGBT themes. Whilst the film is not definitive in how it presents the main character, myself, along with many others, view the film as a powerful narrative of a transgender boy and was praised in this regard.

Sciamma’s third film completed her thematic coming of age trilogy with Girlhood, which was my introduction to Sciamma’s films. Inspired by the gangs of girls Sciamma saw in Paris and using an all-black main cast, most of them being first time performers, Girlhood was again heavily praised on release, noted for capturing the experiences of black teenagers in Paris, albeit from a white director, and ended up winning awards from the Philadelphia, San Sebastian and Stockholm Film Festivals and won the Kermode Award for Best Director, along with screening at Director’s Fortnight at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Sciamma’s most recent film is the one that has probably earned her the most acclaim, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Praised for it’s insightful look at the female experience and for carrying on the power in minimalism that has become the trademark for Sciamma, finding the beauty in everyday actions, when the film premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, competing for the Palme d’or, the film was an instant critical success, winning the Best Screenplay and independent Queer Palm awards. Upon its full release, the film was on the shortlist of films chosen by the French Ministry of Culture to represent France at the 2020 Oscars (ultimately losing out to Les Miserables), and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, along with being nominated for or winning numerous critics awards.

Alongside working as a director, Sciamma has worked on a writer on a few films, being sought after to be a co-writer for Being 17 and winning awards for her screenplay for the excellent animated film My Life as a Courgette. She is also involved in activism in the French film industry, advocating for gender parity in the French film industry and joining Portrait of a Lady on Fire star Adele Haenel in walking out of the Cesar Awards this year when Roman Polanski won Best Director.

As a reminder, the films of Sciamma’s that you can cover are listed below.

  • Water Lilies
  • Tomboy
  • Girlhood
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I look forward to reading the posts you send me.

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