Portrait of Céline Sciamma as a director
French director and screenwriter Céline Sciamma has been reaping rave reviews recently with her new film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a period piece about two women in love.
Sciamma’s body of work is well known for her focus on women, “usually young women on the cusp of some major change – and how they look at themselves and each other,” wrote Gwilym Mumford in The Guardian.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire premiered In Competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It later won the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay, among the first awards it went on to acquire.
Céline Sciamma: A natural for filmmaking
Born 12 November 1978 in Pontoise, Val-d’Oise, France, Sciamma was an avid reader as a child before latching on to films as a teenager.
She went on to attend the top French film and television school La Fémis. As part of her final evaluation at the school, she wrote her first original script, Water Lilies.
The French actor, screenwriter, and director Xavier Beauvois, who was the chair of the evaluation panel, was impressed by her work and persuaded her to make the film.
Despite having no experience, she went on to shoot her first feature film based on her script in her hometown a year after finishing school.
This film went on to become selected for screening in the section Un certain regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and it got three nominations for the 2008 César Awards.
Céline Sciamma’s growing body of work
Sciamma’s 2011 film, Tomboy, went on to premiere at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. It was shown at the Panorama section of the festival.
Her 2014 film, Girlhood, was also chosen as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Further, it went on to the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Aside from directing, she’s also done screenwriting for other directors like André Téchiné’s Being 17 and Claude Barras’ My Life as a Courgette.
Sciamma is also known for her activism, being one of the first signatories of the French branch of the 5050 by 2020 movement that pushes gender parity in film by the year 2020.
With her crew from the Portrait of the Lady, Sciamma and her lead actress Adèle Haenel walked out of the 45th César Awards this year when convicted child rapist Roman Polanski won the award for Best Director.
Céline Sciamma and her love for Adèle Haenel
One of the more talked-about aspects of Portrait of the Lady was how Sciamma cast her ex-girlfriend, Haenel, in the lead role of Héloïse.
The two first worked together in Water Lilies and were in a relationship until they broke up before filming on Portrait of the Lady started.
Sciamma told The Guardian: “It’s an intellectual relationship that never stopped, even though we didn’t officially work together for 12 years.”
“We’ve been growing and thinking together. And I wanted to portray that,” she added.
Haenel made her own declaration of love for Sciamma when after winning the supporting actress César award in 2014, she declared: “I wanted to thank Céline… because… because I love her, voilà.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Sciamma said “Everything I did, Adèle had a part in it in a way, and a lot of the choices she made also I was a part. It never stopped being collaborative.”
Check out the trailer of Sciamma’s latest film below and see for yourself: