Who's been to La Fémis?
World-renowned film school La Fémis is the subject of the latest compelling documentary from veteran filmmaker Claire Simon, The Graduation, which opens at Bertha DocHouse on 15th September (more info and tickets HERE).
Each year the Paris-based institution trains 60 students in ten disciplines of film, from directing and cinematography through to distribution and cinema management. Famed for its fiercely competitive admissions process, the school has a fascinating list of alumni who have made it out the other side to push the boundaries of filmmaking and win the world's most prestigious film prizes numerous times.
Here's a selection of famous names to graduate from La Fémis.
Influential and radical in equal measure, Alain Resnais’ first two fiction films – Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year in Marienbad (1961) challenged audiences and pioneered a new film language.
Before the move to fiction, Resnais’ documentary Night and Fog, made 10 years after the end of World War II, focused on Nazi concentration camps, their legacy and memory over time. Dealing with the camps both starkly and poetically, Night and Fog remains one of the most powerful and iconic holocaust documentaries ever made.
Want to read more? In Memory of Alain Resnais - The New Yorker
Born in France in 1932, Louis Malle is often associated with the Nouvelle Vague, although the great length of his career and breadth of filmmaking style encompassed much more than that movement.
In a long and diverse career, he directed ten documentaries, including Le Monde du Silence which won the Palme d'Or in 1956 and the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1957. But he is perhaps best known for his fiction films, from his debut fiction Elevator to the Gallows (Ascensur pour l'échafaud, 1958) to his 17th feature-length drama, the semi-autobiographical Au Revoir les Enfants (1987), which won Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion and seven Césars in his home country.
Want to read more? 5 Great Louis Malle Films - Indiewire
Raised in West Africa, French director Claire Denis' films engage in vivid, thought-provoking ways with ideas of colonialism, nationality and human relationships. Her complex and often disquieting narratives have made her one of Europe's foremost auteurs.
Denis is currently working on her first English-language film, High Life, a sci-fi drama starring Robert Pattinson, Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth, due to be completed in 2018.
Prolific French filmmaker François Ozon has been nominated for (but hasn't yet won) the Palme d'Or three times - for 2003's Swimming Pool, 2013's Jeune & Jolie, and for L'amant Double, which premiered at Cannes this year and is set to be released in UK cinemas on 20th October.
Provocative, witty and often subversive, Ozon's films are brimming with sexuality and dark humour.
Want to read more? How Francois Ozon Made the Best Remake of the Year By Accident, Indiewire
As a cinematographer, Kirsten Johnson has worked on some of the most powerful and carefully crafted documentaries of the last twenty years, including Derrida (2002), Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008), The Oath (2010) and Citizenfour (2014).
In 2016, Johnson directed Cameraperson, an arresting visual memoir of the life of a cinematographer, and a meditation on humanity and filmmaking. As well as screening at Bertha DocHouse, the film won acclaim and awards internationally, including Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Grand Jury Award.
Want to read more? Film-maker Kirsten Johnson: How I Betrayed My Mother - The Guardian
ONE TO WATCH:
Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Graduating from La Fémis in 2008, Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven sprang to prominence when her first feature-length film, Mustang, premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and went on to be shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Her next film, Kings (starring Halle Berry and Daniel Craig) will have its world premiere at Toronto International Film festival next week, so keep your eyes peeled for it.
NOT AN ALUMNUS, BUT...
Special mention to Raoul Peck, who has been President of La Fémis since 2010. We couldn’t not mention Peck, whose Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro took UK cinemas by storm this year, and who joined us at Bertha DocHouse for an electric Q&A in April.
Want to hear more? I Am Not Your Negro Q&A, April 2017