french filmmaker

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Euzhan Palcy: Trailblazing black female filmmaker

After French West Indian filmmaker Euzhan Palcy’s debut film, Sugar Cane Alley, earned her France’s distinguished César Award for best first work in 1984, an impressed Robert Redford personally invited her to attend the 1985 Sundance Institute Filmmakers Lab (depicted in the above photos). There she workshopped her adaptation of the novel A Dry White Season, about South Africa’s then still-prevalent apartheid. A few years later MGM would produce the movie, making Palcy the first black female director to helm a major Hollywood studio title. Her dedication to an unrelentingly accurate portrayal of apartheid in the film drew Marlon Brando out of his self-imposed, years-long retirement to accept a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, and made Palcy the first black director—male or female—to direct him to an Oscar-nominated performance.

Photos: © 1985 Roger Christiansen | Courtesy of the Sundance Institute Archives


In case you missed it, check out our new video essay on Godard’s game-changing ‘60s films.

On This Day: August 13
  • 1818: Feminist Lucy Stone born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. She was an anti-slavery campaigner.
  • 1831: Nat Turner sees an atmospheric disturbance encouraging him to launch his revolt a week later against slave owners in Virginia.
  • 1842: 1842 General Strike: The Preston Strike in Halifax. Four are shot, with three dying.
  • 1842: 1842 General Strike: Strike at Bayley’s cotton mill in Stalybridge spreads to Manchester.
  • 1871: Hippolyte Havel born in Thabor, Austria. He was an anarchist who settled in New York City and was close friends with Emma Goldman.
  • 1871: Revolutionary Socialist Karl Liebknecht born in Leipzig, Germany. He was a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany.
  • 1882: “Bande Noire” strikes in the Montceau-les-Mines in France. The famed “Bande Noire”, made up of anarchist mine workers, again attack clericalism by stealing religious trinkets.
  • 1885: Cree rebel Kapeyakwaskonam (One Arrow) questionably charged with treason during Metis Northwest Rebellion.
  • 1889: London Dock Workers, led by radicals Ben Tillett and John Burns, lead a strike at South-West India Dock.
  • 1890: Anarchist philosopher Lucien Barbedette born in Mayenne, France.
  • 1911: Minneapolis Carpenters Local 7 wins strike settlement.
  • 1913: German Marxist August Bebel dies in Passugg, Switzerland. He was a politician and one of founders of the Social Democratic Party.
  • 1917: Anarchist and socialist Eugene Vigo dies in Fresnes Prison in France. He was ather of French surrealist/anarchist filmmaker Jean Vigo. He founded and wrote in the newspaper La Guerre sociale and the satirical weekly Le Bonnet rouge.
  • 1917: Anarchists participate in nationwide general strike throughout the country of Spain.
  • 1920: The Polish-Soviet War the Battle of Warsaw begins.
  • 1923: Carlos Cortez born in Milwaukee. He was a member of the IWW, artist and activist. He wuld spend two years in jail for refusing to fight in WWII.
  • 1934: United Textile Workers meet in New York producing list of demands. This leads to the General Textile Workers strike.
  • 1936: Bhikaiji Rusto Cama dies in Mumbai. She was an independence activist. She co-founded the Paris Indian Society and spoke at the 1907 Socialist International Conference.
  • 1936: John Frey, the President of Metal Trades Department of the AFL, testimony to Un-American Activities Comm starts years of blacklisting and red scares.
  • 1946: Famous author and socialist HG Wells dies in Regent’s Park, London.
  • 1955: Regional Council of Negro Leadership registration activist Lamar Smith is murdered in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
  • 1961: Construction on the Berlin Wall begins.
  • 1971: US Attorney General John Mitchell announces there will be no federal investigation into the Kent State University shootings.
  • 1977: Battle of Lewisham: Nazi National Front march stopped in Lewisham, London. Pitched battles defeat the fascists.
  • 1993: The Long Haul infoshop opens, Berkeley, California.
  • 2011: The “Mansouron Friday” in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis participated in anti-government protests.