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 an Oscar-nominated performance.
Photos: © 1985 Roger Christiansen | Courtesy of the Sundance Institute Archives