Chantal Anne Akerman (French: [akɛʁman]; 6 June 1950 – 5 October 2015) was a Belgian film director, artist and professor of film at the City College of New York. Her best-known film is Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). According to film scholar Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Akerman's influence on feminist filmmaking and avant-garde cinema has been substantial.
Early life and education
Akerman was born to an observant family of Polish Jews in Brussels, Belgium. Her grandparents and her mother were sent to Auschwitz; only her mother came back. This was a very important factor in her personal experience. Her mother's anxiety is a recurrent theme in her filmography. Akerman claimed that, at the age of 15, after viewing Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965), she decided, that same night, to make movies. At 18, she entered the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et des Techniques de Diffusion, a Belgian film school. During her first term, however, Akerman chose to leave and make Saute ma ville, a thirteen-minute black-and-white picture in 35mm. She partially subsidized Saute ma ville by trading diamond shares on the Antwerp stock exchange. In 1971, Saute ma ville premiered at the Oberhausen short-film festival. That year, she moved to New York City, where she remained until 1972. Akerman was a leading figure in European experimental cinema and feminist film from the early seventies onwards.
At Anthology Film Archives in New York, Akerman was impressed with the work of Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer and Andy Warhol. She stated that Snow's La Région Centrale introduced her to the relations among film, time and energy.Critical recognition
Her feature Hotel Monterey (1972) and shorts La Chambre 1 and La Chambre 2 reveal the influence of structural filmmaking through these films' usage of long takes. These protracted shots serve to oscillate images between abstraction and figuration. Akerman's films from this period also signify the start of her collaboration with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, the director of photography on La chambre (1972), Hôtel Monterey (1972), Hanging Out Yonkers (1973), Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and News from Home (1977). In 1973, Akerman returned to Belgium and in 1974 received critical recognition for her feature I, You, He, She.
Akerman's most significant film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was released in 1975. Often considered one of the great feminist films, the film makes a hypnotic, real-time study of a middle-aged widow’s stifling routine of domestic chores and prostitution. Upon the film's release, The New York Times called Jeanne Dielman the "first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema". Chantal Akerman scholar Ivone Margulies says the picture is a filmic paradigm for uniting feminism and anti-illusionism. The film was named the 19th-greatest film of the 20th century by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice.Later career
In 1991, Akerman was a member of the jury at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival. In 2011, she joined the full-time faculty of the MFA Program in Media Arts Production at the City College of New York.Identity aesthetics
According to the book Images in the Dark by Raymond Murray, Akerman refused to have her work ghettoized and denied the New York Gay Film Festival the right to screen I, You, He, She. "I will never permit a film of mine to be shown in a gay film festival."
Important solo exhibitions of Akerman's work have been held at the Museum for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, Belgium (2012), MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts (2008), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2006); Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ (2006); and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2003). Akerman has participated in Documenta XI (2002) and the Venice Biennale (2001). In 2011 a film retrospective of Akerman’s work was shown at the Austrian Film Museum.
Akerman died on 5 October 2015 in Paris. Le Monde reported that she committed suicide. She was 65.
No events set