Isabel Coixet

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Isabel Coixet
Born (1960-04-09) 9 April 1960 (age 54)
Sant Adrià de Besòs, Barcelona, Spain

Isabel Coixet (Catalan pronunciation: [izəˈβɛɫ kuˈʃɛt]; born 9 April 1960) is a Catalan film director. She is one of the most prolific female film directors of contemporary Spain, having directed seven feature-length films since the beginning of her film career in 1988. Her films follow a departure from traditional national cinema of Spain, and help to “untangle films from their national context, … clearing the path for thinking about national film from different perspectives.”[1] The recurring themes of “emotions, feelings and existential conflict” coupled with her distinct visual style secure the “multifaceted (she directs, writes, produces and acts)” filmmaker's status as a “catalan auteur”.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Coixet was born in Sant Adrià de Besòs, Barcelona, Spain. She received an M.A. in history from the University of Barcelona in Spain before beginning work on the magazine, Fotogramas, “for which she interviewed a variety of national and international film personalities”. She started her career in advertising, filming commercials before releasing her first feature film in 1988. She has worked as a journalist and as a director for several television advertisements.[3][4]


Coixet was creative director of JWT, founder and creative director of the agency Target and the production company Eddie Saeta and, since 2000, owner of Miss Wasabi Lab SL. She has done ads for British Telecommunications, Ford, Danone, BMW, IKEA, Evax, Renault, Peugeot, Winston, Kronenbourg, Pepsi, Kellogg Company, MCI, Helene Curtis, Procter Gamble, Philip Morris and the ONCE foundation ("Veo Veo", 2006), amongst others. She is a public supporter of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and President Zapatero and made several Socialist ads for television during the 2008 Elections.


Coixet broke into the mainstream cinematic world with her first feature film, Demasiado viejo para morir joven in 1988. The “story about three aimless friends, Equis, Taxi, and Evax” was filmed in Spanish and earned her national recognition and a nomination for a Goya Award for Best Director.[1]

Her second film, Things I never told you (Cosas que nunca te dije), was released in Spain in 1996 and in the U.S. in 1998. It was her first co-production that was both filmed in English and featured Canadian and U.S. actors, and was nominated for a Goya for Best Adapted Screenplay. It follows the story of Ann, a suicidal employee in a photo shop, and displays the somber, universal themes that would become a benchmark of her work to come. Her third feature film, A los que aman, released in 1998, was filmed in Spanish, and “narrates the passionate story of a doctor who falls in love with a woman who eventually dies after he is unable to cure her”.

My Life Without Me[edit]

Coixet gained critical acclaim with her widely praised fourth feature film, My Life Without Me, released in 2003, which was her second co-production that was filmed in English, and was based on the short story collection, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, by the American novelist Nanci Kincaid. The film was produced by Pedro Almodóvar's production company, El Deseo, was nominated for three Goyas, and won the Goya for Best Adapted Screenplay, the Premio Nacional de Cine y Audiovisual de Cataluna, and the Premio Ojo Critico for the sensibility of its cinematic language. Like her first co-production, My Life Without Me featured international actors (including singer-songwriter Deborah Harry, Canadian actress Sarah Polley, and American actor Mark Ruffalo) and emphasized Coixet's growing focus on universal “emotions, feelings, and existential conflict” as well as “rootlessness”, which is conveyed through its setting in North America. The film takes place in a suburb of Vancouver and follows the last two months of the life of Ann, a 23 year old wife and mother of two who attempts to complete a self-compiled list titled “things to do before I die” after she is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. The understated film echoed Coixet's recurring interests in emotionally damaged protagonists living with past trauma, and themes of monotony, solidarity, redemption, and the healing power of tentative relationships.

The Secret Life of Words[edit]

Coixet continued these themes in her fifth feature, The Secret Life of Words, her third co-production filmed in English featuring international actors (including Sarah Polley and American actor Tim Robbins). The Secret Life of Words, released in 2005, has been one of her most somber and internationally successful films. Again, it was produced by Pedro Almodóvar's production company, El Deseo, and won four of the five Goya Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Production Supervision, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film. The film follows Hanna, a survivor from the former Yugoslavia, as she struggles to live with a traumatic and painful past after accepting a nursing job on an offshore oil rig. The story reflects Coixet's interest in “demonstrating the process by which each character survives, in spite of themselves, moments of pain and trauma”.

Coixet's first three co-productions marked her trend toward making films in English that grappled with “the tension between communication and silence”, “secrecy and illness”, “the austere comfort of mundanity”, and “privileged the universal essence of the individual”.[5] These common themes of universality allowed Coixet to “operate from a place of absolute freedom, no longer tied to the traditional “isms”: nationalism, localism, or feminism”, and carried into her two most recent films, Elegy (based on American author Philip Roth's short novel, The Dying Animal), released in 2008, and Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, released in 2009.

Other work[edit]

Coixet is considered to be one of the most praised and acknowledged “key figures of contemporary Spanish film”, being grouped in with her peers consisting of Icíar Bollaín, Chus Gutierrez and Gracia Querejeta. Coixet's distinct “visual style is notable for foregrounding characters appearing together in intimate framing, as opposed to the standard Hollywood shot-reverse-shot format that isolates and separates individuals, even as it's meant to show them in earnest dialog.” Her films are light on dialog, feature voice-over narration, and showcase amateur documentary-style cinematography, which all work to convey an understated, realistic message of acceptance of life, the past (no matter how grim), and the distinctly human ability to move forward. Critic Stanley Kauffmann has referred to Coixet's work “as the traversal of a state of mind, a mood”, rather than work that falls into a particular genre, lending credence to her status as an auteur filmmaker.[6]

Pedro Almodóvar's production company, El Deseo, produced both My Life Without Me and The Secret Life of Words. Both films' diverse international crews (French cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu and art director Pierre-Francois Limbosch worked on The Secret Life of Words) reflect the universal themes that cross national boundaries and emphasize humanistic issues of the individual in crisis.

In addition to her feature films and experience in television and advertising, Coixet has directed short segments in collaborative films. She directed the segment “la insoportable levedad del carrito de la compra” for the 2004 collaboration titled ¡Hay motivo!, the segment titled “Bastille” for the 2006 film Paris, je t'aime, and “Cartas a Nora” for the 2007 collaboration, Invisibles, produced by Javier Bardem. She has also produced short documentaries, including Journey to the Heart of Torture (2007), an episode of 50 años de... titled La Mujer, cosa de hombres (2009), Aral. The Lost Sea, and Listening to Judge Garzón (2010), all available on her website. Coixet blogs on her official website launched in July, 2003, under the alter-ego, Miss Wasabi.[7]

Shanghai World Expo 2010[edit]

Coixet, Bigas Luna and Martín Patino prepared an exhibit each for the Spanish Pavilion at the 2010 Expo.[8]




  1. ^ a b c Pavlovic, Tatjana (2009). 100 Years of Spanish Cinema. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. pp. 181–225. ISBN 978-1-4051-8420-5. 
  2. ^ Smith, Paul Julian (January 2004). "Waiting for Pedro". Sight and Sound 14 (1): 9–9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [1] Barcelona Writing, Interview with Isabel Coixet
  4. ^ [2] Distinguished alumni University of Barcelona
  5. ^ Sklar, Robert (Fall 2008). "Elegy". Cineaste 33 (4): 50–52. 
  6. ^ Kauffmann, Stanley (25 December 2006). "Silence and Bustle". New Republic 235 (26): 20–21. 
  7. ^ Coixet, Isabel. "Films". Documentaries. miss wasabi. Retrieved 05/07/2012. 
  8. ^ "El 'cesto español' en Shanghai" El País (Spanish)

External links[edit]