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Claire Denis

Now at the forefront of a new wave of French women filmmakers, Claire Denis was born in Paris, the eldest daughter of a French civil servant. When she was two months old, her family moved to Africa, and over the years of her childhood, lived in several countries across the continent. Denis returned to Paris at the age of thirteen, and later enrolled in the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographique (IDHEC), from which she graduated in 1972. She made a series of short films and several documentaries until 1975, when Louis Daquin, the director of IDHEC, recommended her for a job on Robert Enrico's THE SECRET.

Denis began working regularly, first as a production assistant, then as a second assistant director, and finally as a first assistant director with such renowned directors as Dusan Makavejev, Jacques Rivette, Eduardo de Gregorio, Jacques Rouffio and Constantin Costa-Gavras. The idea for her feature film, CHOCOLAT, came to her while she was on location in the American South for Wim Wenders' PARIS, TEXAS. The landscape evoked memories of her youth, and she conceived of a semi-autobiographical story of racial tension in colonial Africa of the 1950s.

Denis worked with Jim Jarmusch on DOWN BY LAW, and again with Wenders on WINGS OF DESIRE, before finally getting to shoot CHOCOLAT in 1988. That year, her film was in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, won a CIAK Prize in Italy as Best First Feature, and was nominated for César (french Oscar) in the same category. When it opened theatrically in the United States, CHOCOLAT won wide critical praise and quickly became an art house hit.

Denis went on to direct MAN NO RUN (1989), a concert film which covered the first French tour of the Cameroon band Les Têtes brulées, and which premiered at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival. NO FEAR NO DIE (1990), about two African immigrants in France who train and sell birds for illegal cockfights, which was released theatrically in the United States, but was banned in the United Kingdom. KEEP IT TO YOURSELF (1991); I CAN'T SLEEP (1993), which was released by New Yorker Films in the US the following year; U.S. GO HOME in 1994 and NÉNETTE AND BONI in 1996. Denis has also directed several television projects.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Claire Denis Facts

BirthdayApril 21, 1948 (75)
BirthplaceParis, France

Selected Filmography

Trouble Every Day
35 Shots of Rum
White Material
The Intruder
Friday Night
Nenette + Boni
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