Dominique Cabrera

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Dominique Cabrera
Born (1957-12-21) 21 December 1957 (age 57)
Relizane, Algeria
Occupation Film director
Film Critic
Years active 1981–present

Dominique Cabrera (born 21 December 1957 in Relizane, Algeria) is a French film director. She has taught filmmaking at La Fémis and at Harvard University.[1] Her film Nadia et les hippopotames was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.[2] Additionally, her work has screened in Berlin Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, the Vienna International Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, the Rotterdam Film Festival, and in the New York Film Festival, among others.[3]


Dominique Cabrera was born in 1957 in Relizane, Algeria and moved to France as a child, in 1962. She graduated from Paris' La Fémis film school in 1981, then known as the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques.[4]

Between 1982 and 1993, Cabrera directed five short films, documentaries, and works of fiction. Two films in the 1990s, Chronique d'une banlieue ordinaire and Une poste à la Courneuve, brought Cabrera early recognition.

After reading one of her scripts at a screenwriting competition in 1990, producer Didier Haudepin recognized Cabrera as an emerging talent. His support led to the production of her first feature film, L'autre côté de la mer, six years later.[4]


Politic engagement spans Cabrera's diverse filmography, which includes documentaries, fiction works, and films combining the two genres.[5] According to some critics, Cabrera does not make moral or ideological judgments about her characters or documentary subjects. Rather, she infuses her images with lyricism, love, and a sense of wonder, leaving judgment up to the viewer.[6] Her fiction work deals with issues of family, motherhood, cultural assimilation, and national heritage. Cabrera's own pied-noir origins inform her interest in issues of assimilation and in the history between France and the Maghreb. Recurring dreams of utopia, doubt, and discouragement also unite her work.[6]

Cabrera's first feature-length work of fiction, L'autre côté de la mer, addresses questions of assimilation in contemporary French society. A wealthy French pied-noir travels to Paris for a cataract operation. The doctor who performs his surgery is Algerian-born but has lived in France since childhood. Through intimate depictions of these two characters and interactions with their families, Cabrera articulates enduring consequences of Algeria's 1962 struggle for independence.[7] The film screened at the Cannes Film Festival.[8]

Cabrera made her second feature film, Nadia et les hippopotames, in 1999. Arte broadcast an edited version of the film with the title Retiens la nuit. The film combined documentary elements within a larger fictional framework. Much of the film, which takes place during the SNCF's 1995 general strikes, records actual railroad workers, at night and in winter.[9]

Cabrera's filmic diary, Demain et encore demain, was one of the first features shot on video to see a theatrical release in France.[6] The autobiographical film, made in 1995, alternately depicts the anguish and delight of its creator.[10] Exploring the documentary as a therapeutic process, Cabrera inserts herself into the fabric of the film. Each of her various identities—woman, mother, daughter, sister, lover—informs a growing definition of what it means to be a filmmaker.[11] This film represents a turning point in Cabrera's career. Between the completion of Demain et encore demain and 2010, all of her feature-length work was fictional.[12]

Folle Embellie in 2004 represents a venture into period fiction; the film is set in June 1940 amid Axis bombing campaigns.[13] Against this backdrop Cabrera evokes a kind of fairy tale about the refuge the natural world offers to the escapees of an asylum. The film features Jean-Pierre Léaud and is based on a story Cabrera heard when she worked in a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s.[14]

Le Lait de la Tendresse Humaine is Cabrera's film that most explicitly addresses issues of motherhood. Marilyne Canto plays a victim of postpartum depression, who leaves her family without notice and hides in a neighbor's apartment. Critics praised the film for its use of color, its compassion for its characters, and its frank portrayal of a mother's struggle.[15]

Quand la ville mord was Cabrera's first literary adaptation; its plot comes from a novel by Marc Villard which was part of the "Suite Noire" crime fiction collection. Cabrera produced the film for the television station, France 2. The film was praised for its realistic depiction of a young African woman's forced prostitution, for which Cabrera and the film's lead, Aïssa Maïga, met with former prostitutes in Paris.[16]

Certain actors, such as Marilyne Canto, Yolante Moreau, Olivier Gourmet, and Ariane Ascaride, reappear in across Cabrera's films.[9] Sometimes she works with popular actors, such as Patrick Bruel and Miou-Miou. The presence of these actors echos other films in which they once appeared, Cabrera suggests.[17] She has consistently worked with the same crew since the 1980s, including her director of photography, Hélène Louvart.[18]

Cabrera has also acted in three films: Un petit cas de conscience by Marie Claude Treilhou, Douches froides by Antony Cordier, and Belleville-Tokyo by Elise Girard.

Her films have received significant critical acclaim, a César nomination, and two nominations at the Cannes film festival.[4]





  1. ^ "VES Faculty- Dominique Cabrera". Visual and Environmental Studies Department, Harvard University. 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Nadia and the Hippos". Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "VES Faculty- Dominique Cabrera". 2010 Visual and Environmental Studies Department, Harvard University. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c Lamberbourg, Adeline (2010). "Parcours croisés de Dominique Cabrera, cinéaste, et de ses proches collaborateurs.". Temporalités (Temporalités). 
  5. ^ Ling, Alex (2007). "The New Face of Political Cinema: Commitment in French Film Since 1995 by Martin O'Shaughnessy". Senses of Cinema. 
  6. ^ a b c Binh, N. T. (2004). "Dominique Cabrera: Festival International du Film de la Rochelle". Festival International du Film de la Rochelle. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen (7 April 1998). "Film Festival Review; Aftershocks of Assimilation". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  8. ^ "Dominique Cabrera". Festival de Cannes. 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "C comme...Dominique Cabrera". UniversCiné. UniversCiné. 2009. 
  10. ^ Olivier, Seguret (14 January 1998). "Vivement "Demain et encore demain".". Libération. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  11. ^ Calatayud, Agnès (2001). "An ordinary woman but a film-maker: Demain et encore demain (1997) – Dominique Cabrera's self-portrait". Studies in French Cinema 1: 22–28. doi:10.1386/sfci.1.1.22. 
  12. ^ Dobson, Julia (2008). "Timely Resistance in the Documentary Work of Dominique Cabrera" (PDF). French Studies: A Quarterly Review (Oxford University Press). 
  13. ^ Strauss, Frédéric (2004). "Montrer la beauté du monde durant la débâcle de Juin 40? Dominique Cabrera réussit le pari.". Télérama. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  14. ^ Campion, Alexis (2004). "Jean-Pierre Léaud grand parano". Le Journal du Dimanche. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Sotinel, Thomas (19 September 2001). "La mère en fuite: Le Lait de la tendresse humain. Une femme plonge au plus profond d'elle-même. Eblouissant" (PDF). Le Monde. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  16. ^ Cailletet, Marie (22 July 2009). "De peinture et de sang". Télérama. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Lamberbourg, Adeline (2010). "Parcours croisés de Dominique Cabrera, cinéaste, et de ses proches collaborateurs". Temporalités (Temporalités) 62 (3): 290–300. 
  18. ^ IMDB (2010). "Hélène Louvart"., Inc. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 

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