French auteur Claire Denis will introduce her 2009 film White Material tonight (Wednesday, November 14) at 7:30 p.m. at Emory as part of a two-day visit being billed as "Claire Denis: Uncharted Territories."
For the past few weeks, in anticipation of her visit, the Emory Department of Film and Media Studies has been offering a primer on her body of work. Her debut film Chocolat (the one about colonialism, not the bon-bon with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) announced the arrival of a major force in international cinema back in 1988. Denis' films are informed by her personal experiences. Raised in West Africa as the daughter of a French colonial administrator, she shows special sensitivity to issues of racial divisions, societal boundaries, and the clash of cultural taboos. Her family emigrated to France when she was a teen, providing her with a unique outsider perspective showcased in films like I Cant' Sleep, Beau Travail and 35 Shots of Rum, which turn the lens on outcasts, and those living outside of mainstream society.
Visually, her films are defined by a stylistic clash between a naturalistic vérité approach to shooting and rigorously structured editing. The approach has been called "shooting fast, editing slowly," allowing the film to take shape in the editing room. Denis has said, "I'm always insecure when I'm making a film. I have doubts about myself but rarely about the actors."
In addition to tonight's screening, Denis will participate in a "Creativity Conversation" tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. with Dr. Catherine Dana (Department of French and Italian, Emory University) and Dr. Richard Neupert (Department of Theater and Film, University of Georgia).
Complete details with links and directions follow:
Major French Filmmaker Claire Denis at Emory Nov. 14 and 15
Claire Denis, one of the most highly regarded French filmmakers working today, will be on the Emory campus Nov. 14 and 15 for two evening presentations. On Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Denis will introduce a screening of her latest film, White Material (2009) and on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m., she will be the focus of a Creativity Conversation. Preceding her visit, four of her most critically acclaimed films will be screened at Emory on Nov. 2, 5, 9, and 12 at 7:30 p.m. The presentations and screenings take place in White Hall on the Emory campus. All events are free and open to the public.
Denis is one of the major artistic voices in contemporary French cinema and a key figure in world cinema. After working as an assistant director to Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders among others, she made her directing debut in 1988 with Chocolat - a film about a French girl growing up in a colonial outpost in Africa. Since then, Denis has become known for her fearless exploration of a wide range of contemporary subjects and often extreme human situations; her films are informed by her own experiences of displacement during her childhood in Africa and then her emigration to France as a teenager. Most of all, her films reflect a deep awareness of the complexities of French post-colonialism as played out in the lives of "ordinary" people.
Throughout her career, and across a wide variety of genres, Denis has developed a highly individualistic approach to narratives of intense engagement in the here and now. Her films allude to, or sometimes adapt great works of literature (e.g., Herman Melville's Billy Budd for 1999's Beau Travail) and cinema (Yasujiro Ozu's 1949 Late Spring for 2008's 35 Shots of Rum), continuing a dialogue with writers and filmmakers. Her visual style favors long takes, extreme close-ups and associative editing. Dance is ever-present in her films. Music, whether it is mainstream, world music or specifically composed for her movies, is so important that it could be considered a character in her films.
Denis' films show characters too often absent from mainstream cinema such as exiles, immigrants, or people living at the margins of the society. She has said, "We are always trying and failing to understand the world and ourselves. We never really know the final meaning of our life. Literature and the cinema should reflect that."
Four major films will be screened at Emory leading up to Denis' visit. All 7:30 p.m. screenings are shown in 35mm (except where noted) and will be introduced by Emory faculty.
Nov. 2 - Chocolat (1988)
Nov. 5 - I Can't Sleep (J'ai pas sommeil 1994) (presented on DVD)
Nov. 9 - Beau Travail (1999)
Nov. 12 - 35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums 2008)
Denis' visit is hosted by Emory's Department of Film and Media Studies and the Department of French and Italian, in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Institut Français and Unifrance. Cosponsors of this program are Emory's program in African Studies, the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, the Hightower Fund, and the Departments of African American Studies, Comparative Literature, English, History, Theater Studies and Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies.
The Nov. 2, 5, 9, and 12 screenings are at 7:30 p.m. in White Hall 205, 301 Dowman Drive, Atlanta, 30322. The Claire Denis presentations are Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 15, 6 p.m. in White Hall 208. All events are free. Directions and parking information at http://french.emory.edu/news/
The mission of the Emory Department of Film and Media Studies is media literacy: to train undergraduate and graduate students to be discerning consumers, scholars and producers of the our most dynamic and influential cultural forms, grounding them in a thorough knowledge of American and international film and television history, the practices of media theory and criticism, as well as familiarizing them with the tools and methodologies of documentary and fiction filmmaking.
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