Céline Sciamma

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Céline Sciamma
Céline Sciamma 2017.jpg
Sciamma in 2017
Born (1978-11-12) 12 November 1978 (age 44)
Alma materLa Fémis
Years active2004–present

Céline Sciamma (French: [selin sjama];[1] born 12 November 1978) is a French screenwriter and film director. She is especially known for her films Girlhood (2014), My Life as a Courgette (2016), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), winning many nominations and awards for her films.

A common theme in Sciamma's films is the fluidity of gender and sexual identity among girls and women, and her films explore the female gaze.

Early life and education[edit]

Sciamma was born on 12 November 1978[2] was raised in Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb outside of Paris.[3] Her father, Dominique Sciamma, is a software designer, and her brother, Laurent Sciamma, is a stand-up performer and graphic designer.[4]

Before attending La Fémis, the première French film school, where she studied from 2001-2005, Sciamma earned her master's degree in French Literature at Paris Nanterre University.[5][6] As a child, she was an avid reader and became interested in film as a teenager.[5] Sciamma cites her grandmother as inspiration to her love of film, saying that she had a great interest in old Hollywood movies. Sciamma also attended Utopia, an art house cinema theater in Cergy 3 times a week as a teenager.[7] She wrote her first original script for Water Lilies as part of her final evaluation at La Fémis. Sciamma has stated that she never planned on directing, and that she has thought only about screenwriting or working as a critic, because she felt that directing was too much of a ‘male only’ position.[8] Xavier Beauvois, who was chairman of the evaluation panel, and could be considered as her mentor, persuaded her to make the film.[9] A year after finishing school, she began shooting the film in her hometown.[10]



Sciamma's debut film, Water Lilies, was released in 2007. The French title, "Naissance des Pieuvres," translates to "Birth of the Octupuses," but was altered for the international release.[11] The film's script was Sciamma's senior project at La Fémis, although when she wrote it, Sciamma did not intend to direct it.[12] The film, shot in Cergy, France, a Parisian suburb, explores the world of synchronized swimming. Based on Sciamma's own encounter with the sport, the film's protagonist explores her burgeoning sexuality and attraction to the team's captain.[13] Water Lilies was selected for screening in the section Un certain regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the Louis Delluc award for a first film.[12]The film secured three nominations for the 2008 César Awards; Sciamma was nominated for the César Award for Best Debut, and actresses Adèle Haenel and Louise Blachère were both nominated for the César Award for Most Promising Actress.[14]

Sciamma directed her first short film, Pauline, in 2009 as part of a government anti-homophobia campaign called ‘Five films against homophobia’.[9]

Her 2011 film Tomboy was written and shot in a matter of months.[15] Sciamma wrote the script in three weeks, completed casting in three weeks, and shot the film in 20 days.[10] It premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama section of the festival, and won the Teddy award for films with queer topics.[12] The film was shown in French schools as part of an educational program.[10]

Sciamma worked on TV series Les Revenants (2012) for a year and a half. She has said in interviews that she wants to direct serial television series.[12]

Her 2014 film Girlhood was selected to be screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[16] It also played at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. In interviews, Sciamma said that Girlhood would be her last coming-of-age film and that she considered it, Water Lilies and Tomboy a trilogy.[17]

Girlhood, a coming-of-age film about a young woman who leaves school and joins a gang, received criticism for centering Black experiences and featuring a mostly Black cast but being directed and made by a mostly white crew.[12]

In between directing her own films, Sciamma continues to work as a screenwriter for other directors. She was sought after by André Téchiné, whose work Sciamma admired as a youth, to co-write the screenplay for his 2016 film Being 17.[18] She also adapted the novel Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Courgette) into a screenplay for a stop-motion animated film.[12]

Sciamma's fourth feature film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, began shooting in autumn 2018.[19] It premiered In Competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay.[20]

She co-wrote the 2021 film Paris, 13th District alongside Jacques Audiard and Léa Mysius.[21]

Sciamma then shot her fifth feature, Petite Maman, in the fall of 2020 and it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in March 2021.[22] It also screened at the 2021 San Sebastián International Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.[23]

Other roles[edit]

Since 2015 and as of 2022 Sciamma continues to serve as the co-president of the SRF (Society of Film Directors).[24]

Style and themes[edit]

Sciamma frequently collaborates with Para One, who has scored all her films and directed scripts by Sciamma in the past.[citation needed] She frequently collaborates with cinematographer Crystel Fournier, who worked on Sciamma's Girlhood trilogy, among others.[25]

She is noted for casting non-professional actors in her films, and also frequently casts Adèle Haenel, who appeared in Water Lilies, Pauline, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Sciamma has said that fashion and style form an important part of characterisation, which is why, though uncredited, she is often the costume designer for her films.[26]

Sciamma has cited David Lynch as a heavy influence, along with seeing Virginia Woolf as "the greatest novelist" and Chantal Akerman as "one of the most important filmmakers".[27]

Sciamma has spoken about the metaphorical purpose of using synchronized swimming in Water Lillies, which she claims "reveals a lot about the job of being a girl," due to the tension between athleticism and feminine aesthetics.[13]

A common theme in Sciamma's films is the fluidity of gender and sexual identity among girls and women.[28] Her films look at lesbianism and queerness, and how this represented on screen. She focuses on the idea of the body, and how touch is related to it within cinema.[29] Sciamma’s notable in her thematic elements for female gaze, and many scholars have cited her as a pioneer for creating a new way of seeing women in media.[30] She also likes to conceptualise the idea of ‘looking’, using Russian nesting dolls as a metaphor of "looking within looking".[8]

Sciamma also regularly examines themes of family including broken families, bereavement, and adoption (Wilson). By focusing on coming-of-age narratives, she examines autonomy of children and teenagers, especially in terms of gender and sexuality. Her films often capture children without their parents, and documents their metamorphosis and imagination onscreen. She is interested in their subjugation and autonomy.[12]

Sciamma does not believe in the idea of a muse for her pieces, and despite her personal relationship with Haenel, says that the relationships on screen are of collaboration and subversion, not fascination.[31]

Sciamma focuses on identity and representation in film, such as black identity in Girlhood, and motherhood identity in Petite Maman.[32][33]


Sciamma is a feminist.[34] She was a founding member of the French branch of the 50/50 by 2020 movement, a group of French film industry professionals advocating for gender parity in film by the year 2020.[35][36]

She has contributed heavily to discourse with cinema regarding the female gaze.[30] Sciamma uses her platform to speak about the restrictions of the male gaze and present movies that elevate the female gaze.[37] She sees her work, particularly Portrait of a Lady on Fire, as a manifesto of the female gaze. Sciamma stated in an interview: "That’s why the male gaze is obsessed with representing lesbians, for instance. It's a way to control it. Our stories are powerful because they are dangerous. We are dangerous. So it's a very good strategy to despise us — to undermine us — because it's giving us less leverage for a very powerful political dynamic".[38]

Sciamma has stated that "cinema is always political," and that creating films by women and about women is a political act. [39]

In 2018, she co-organised and participated in the women's protest against inequality at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival alongside many notable women in film, including Agnès Varda, Ava DuVernay, Cate Blanchett and Léa Seydoux.[40] This protest campaigned for gender equality in the film industry.[12]

At the premiere of her film Portrait of a Lady on Fire at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, both Sciamma and lead actress Haenel wore 50/50 pins in support of the movement.[41]

In 2020 Sciamma and the Portrait of a Lady on Fire team joined Haenel in walking out of the 45th César Awards after Roman Polanski won the award for Best Director.[42] Haenel had previously spoken out about experiencing sexual harassment from director Christopher Ruggia.[12] Sciamma stated in an interview regarding the walk-out that “...there was no plan. It’s all about the moment, a matter of seconds. It’s about moving your legs, as simple as that. And that’s hard. It’s hard to stand up, hard to move your legs. I understand why people don’t. But sometimes you have to.”[31]

Personal life[edit]

Sciamma is a lesbian.[43] In 2014, Adèle Haenel publicly acknowledged that she was in a relationship with Sciamma in her acceptance speech for her César Award.[44] The two had met on the set of the 2007 film Water Lilies and started dating sometime after. The couple parted ways, amicably, sometime before the 2018 filming of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which also starred Haenel.[45]

Filmography and awards[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Actor Notes
2004 Les Premières Communions Yes Short film
2006 Cache ta joie Yes Short film
2007 Water Lilies Yes Yes Yes Louis Delluc Prize for Best First Film
Cabourg Film Festival – Youth Jury Prize
Athens International Film Festival – Best Film
Cabourg Romantic Film Festival – Award of the Youth
Torino Film Festival – Holden Award for Best Script - Special Mention
Nominated – César Award for Best First Feature Film
Nominated – Caméra d'Or (2007 Cannes Film Festival)
Nominated – Prix Un Certain Regard (2007 Cannes Film Festival)
Nominated – Prize of the City of Torino for Best Feature Film
2009 Pauline Yes Short film
2010 Ivory Tower Yes
2011 Tomboy Yes Yes Berlin International Film FestivalTeddy Jury Award[46]
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent CinemaFIPRESCI Prize
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent CinemaSIGNIS Award
Prix Jacques Prévert du Scénario for Best Original Screenplay
Odesa International Film Festival – Golden Duke for Grand Prix
Odesa International Film Festival – Don Quixote Award for International Program
Schwule Filmwoche Freiburg – Opening Movie
Nominated – Odesa International Film Festival -- Golden Duke for International Competition
Nominated – Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema – Best Film
2014 Bird People Yes Screenplay consultant
Mademoiselle Yes Role: Fille boîte; Short film
Girlhood Yes Yes Black Reel Awards – Outstanding Foreign Film
Kermode Award for Best Director
Stockholm International Film Festival – Best Film
Lumières Awards – Special Jury Prize
Philadelphia Film Festival – Special Jury Prize for Narrative Award
San Sebastian International Film Festival – TVE Otra Mirada Award
Stockholm Film Festival – Bronze Horse for Best Film
Jameson CineFest: Miskolc International Film Festival – International Ecumenical Award
Nominated – Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA Female Focus Award for Best Woman Director
Nominated – Queer Palm (2014 Cannes Film Festival)
Nominated – César Award for Best Director
Nominated – European Parliament Lux Prize
Nominated – Lumières Award for Best Film
Nominated – Lumières Award for Best Director
Nominated – Official Competition for Best Film (London Film Festival)
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film
Nominated – Critics Award (2014 Hamburg Film Festival)
Young Tiger Yes Storyline consultant
2016 Being 17 Yes
My Life as a Courgette Yes César Award for Best Adaptated Screenplay
Lumières Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing in an Animated Feature Production
2018 With the Wind Yes Collaborating writer
2019 Portrait of a Lady on Fire Yes Yes Best Screenplay Award (Cannes Film Festival)
Queer Palm (Cannes Film Festival)
Lumières Award for Best Cinematography
César Award for Best Cinematography
Chicago International Film Festival — Gold Hugo for Best Feature
Denver International Film Festival — Rare Pearl Award
European Film Awards — European Film Award for European Screenwriter
Hamburg Film Festival — Art Cinema Award for Best Feature
Chicago International Film Festival – Silver Q-Hugo
Alliance of Women Film Journalists — EDA Female Focus Award for Best Woman Director
Nominated — Alliance of Women Film Journalists — EDA for Best Director
Nominated — Alliance of Women Film Journalists — EDA Female Focus Award for Best Woman Screenwriter
Nominated – Film Press Union — Grand Prix
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Nominated – César Award for Best Director
Nominated – Lumières Award for Best Film
Nominated – Palme d’Or (Cannes Film Festival)
Nominated – Lumières Award for Best Director
Nominated – Best Film Not in the English Language (BAFTA)
2021 Petite Maman Yes Yes Film by the Sea International Film Festival — Le prix Vive le cinéma! For Best French Language Film
Mar del Plata Film Festival – SIGNIS Award: Special Mention
San Sebastián International Film Festival – City of Donostia Audience Award
Stockholm Film Festival – FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film
Nominated – Mar del Plata Film Festival – Best Film, International Competition
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear (Berlin International Film Festival)
Nominated – Sydney Film Festival – Sydney Film Prize for Best Film
Nominated – British Independent Film Award for Best International Independent Film
Nominated – Chicago International Film Festival – Golden Hugo for Best Feature
Paris, 13th District Yes Collaborating writer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "L'interview popcorns de Celine Sciamma". SensCritique. 18 September 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Céline Sciamma : biographie, actualités et émissions France Culture". France Culture (in French). Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  3. ^ Romney, Jonathan (26 April 2015). "The stars of Girlhood: 'Our poster is all over Paris, with four black faces on it…'". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  4. ^ Branquart, Victor (7 May 2012). "Laurent Sciamma : meilleur espoir". Standard Magazine. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b Jenkins, David. "Celine Sciamma:interview". TimeOut London. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  6. ^ "Céline Sciamma | Berlinale Talents". www.berlinale-talents.de. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  7. ^ "Céline Sciamma: 'My films are always about a few days out of the world'". the Guardian. 14 November 2021. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Céline Sciamma: 'My films are always about a few days out of the world'". the Guardian. 14 November 2021. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  9. ^ a b Lambies, Josep. "Céline Sciamma talks 'Tomboy'". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Hunt, Rosy (15 September 2011). "INTERVIEW WITH CÉLINE SCIAMMA". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  11. ^ Silverstein, Melissa. In Her Voice Women Directors Talk Directing. Open Road Distribution, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wilson, Emma. Céline Sciamma: Portraits. Edinburgh University Press, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Wood, Jason, . Last Words: Considering Contemporary Cinema. Columbia University Press, 2014, doi: 10.7312/wood17196. features an interview with Sciamma
  14. ^ "Céline Sciamma". IMDb. Retrieved 17 November 2022.
  15. ^ Silverstein, Melissa. "Interview with Celine Sciamma: Writer/Director of Tomboy BLOGS". Archived from the original on 14 September 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Cannes Directors' Fortnight 2014 lineup unveiled". Screendaily. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  17. ^ Blay, Zeba. "Interview: 'Girlhood' Director Celine Sciamma on Race, Gender & the Universality of the Story". Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  18. ^ Kopiejwski, Faustine. ""Quand on a 17 ans": Céline Sciamma au scénario du nouveau film d'André Téchiné". CheekMagazine. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  19. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie. "mk2 launches sales on Céline Sciamma's 'Portrait of A Lady On Fire', Porumboiu's 'The Passenger' (exclusive)". Screendaily. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  20. ^ Richford, Rhonda (24 May 2019). "Cannes: 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' Takes Queer Palm Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  21. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (23 September 2020). "Jacques Audiard's New Film 'Les Olympiades' Shooting Near Paris With Celine Sciamma Co-Writing (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  22. ^ Kleinmann, James (4 March 2021). "Berlin Film Festival 2021 Review: Petite Maman ★★★★1/2". The Queer Review. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  23. ^ "San Sebastian Film Festival". sansebastianfestival. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  24. ^ "Nouveau Conseil d'administration de la Société des réalisateurs de films 2017-2018". Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  25. ^ Barbier, Brigitte. "La directrice de la photographie Crystel Fournier, AFC, parle de son travail sur "Bande de filles", de Céline Sciamma". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  26. ^ Phillips, Mariah. "'GIRLHOOD' director Celine Sciamma talks Paris, friendship, and colorful storytelling". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  27. ^ Dozol, Vincent (13 February 2020). "CÈLINE SCIAMMA: THE FRENCH DIRECTOR WINNING OVER U.S. CRITICS". Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  28. ^ Palmer, Tim (2011). Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton CT. ISBN 0-8195-6827-9.
  29. ^ Belot, Sophie (8 May 2012). "Céline Sciamma's La Naissance des pieuvres (2007): Seduction and be-coming". Studies in French Cinema. 12 (2): 169–184. doi:10.1386/sfc.12.2.169_1. S2CID 194051018.
  30. ^ a b Bulloch, Ellie. Subverting the ‘Male Gaze’: How Is a ‘Female Gaze’ Evident in the Works of Sophie Calle and Céline Sciamma? Dissertation, Professor Paul Hegarty, 2021. https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/clas/documents/final-year-prizes/2021/ellie-bulloch-dissertation.pdf.
  31. ^ a b "Céline Sciamma: 'My films are always about a few days out of the world'". the Guardian. 14 November 2021. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  32. ^ Bramowitz, Julie (30 January 2015). "Céline Sciamma's Newest Film, Girlhood, Changes the Face of the Coming-of-Age Story". Vogue. Archived from the original on 11 May 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  33. ^ gwendolyn-smith (18 November 2021). "Céline Sciamma: 'Imagine waiting all your life to feel seen'". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  34. ^ Hatim, Houssam. "Céline Sciamma, ou le cinéma au centre de la lutte féministe". Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  35. ^ "THE SIGNATORIES". Archived from the original on 19 May 2019. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Céline Sciamma: 'In France, they don't find the film hot. They think it lacks flesh, it's not erotic'". TheGuardian.com. 21 February 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  37. ^ "Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma on her ravishing romantic masterpiece". 19 February 2020.
  38. ^ VanDerWerff, Emily (19 February 2020). "Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma on her ravishing romantic masterpiece". Vox. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  39. ^ Oumano, Elena (2011). Cinema today : a conversation with thirty-nine filmmakers from around the world. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813550282.
  40. ^ Nayeri, Farah (12 May 2018). "Women Rally on Cannes Red Carpet to Highlight Gender Inequality". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  41. ^ Cotton, Johnny (20 May 2019). "'Lady on Fire' by female promise Sciamma sets Cannes ablaze". Reuters. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  42. ^ Willsher, Kim (March 2020). "Polanski's 'Oscar' divides elite world of French cinema". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  43. ^ Robertson, Jessica (9 July 2008). "Interview: Director Celine Sciamma Makes a Splash at Cannes with Water Lilies". GO. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  44. ^ Romney, Jonathen (4 December 2016). "Adele Haenel, Recycling cliches is a sign that a film lacks courage". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  45. ^ Erbland, Kate (5 December 2019). "'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' Filmmaker Céline Sciamma Is Trying to Break Your Heart". IndieWire. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  46. ^ Warbler, Daniel (2 June 2014). "THE OUT TAKE: 10 FANTASTIC TEDDY AWARD-WINNING LGBT FILMS TO WATCH RIGHT NOW". mtv.com. Retrieved 9 September 2018.

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