July 10, 1959 |
Ellen Kuras (born July 10, 1959 in New Jersey) is an American cinematographer and director whose eclectic and innovative body of work includes narrative and documentary films, music videos and commercials in both the studio and independent worlds. One of the women standing out in the field of cinematography, she is a pioneer best known for her stunning work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She has collaborated with directors such as Michel Gondry, Spike Lee, Sam Mendes, Jim Jarmusch, Rebecca Miller, Martin Scorsese and more. She is the unprecedented three-time winner of the Award for Excellence in Dramatic Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival, for her films Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, Angela and Swoon, which was her first dramatic feature after having begun her career in political documentaries.
In 2008, she released The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), her directorial debut, which she also wrote, produced and shot. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2009 and in 2010, she won a Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Non-Fiction Filmmaking for the film.
She began her career in 1987, shooting Ellen Bruno’s Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia, the first film ever made by Westerners in Cambodia during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. In 1990 she won the Student Academy award for best Cinematography and the Eastman Kodak Best Cinematography Focus Award for her work on Samsara. The 1990 Sundance Jury Award was created specifically to honor this film.
That same year, she was asked by Killer Films executive producer Christine Vachon to shoot Swoon for director Tom Kalin. Her first dramatic film, it won her the Sundance Award for Excellence in Cinematography in 1992. This collaboration was the start of a prolific working relationship with Killer Films, which includes projects like Postcards From America and I Shot Andy Warhol. From that point she became one of the first women to shoot both major studio movies (Blow), and independent films (Angela), as well as documentaries (Spike Lee’s 4 Little Girls), concert films (Michel Gondry’s Block Party and successful TV movies (If These Walls Could Talk).
In 1999, she was invited to join the American Society of Cinematographers, thus becoming the fifth female members to join more than 400 male peers.
In addition to recognition at the Academy and Emmy Awards, she has received many accolades including the Women in Film Kodak Vision Award in 1999 and was honored at the 2006 Gotham Award for her entire body of work. In 2009 she was a special Honoree at the Santa Fe Film Festival for her leadership and work in the field of cinematography. In 2003 she was the first technician to receive the prestigious NY Women In Film and TV Muse Award, which traditionally is given to actresses.
She has served on the juries of several important film festivals around the world. In 1997 she was invited to be on the jury of the Sundance Film Festival. In 2013, she was a member of the jury at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival. In 2015 she was on the Jury of the Belgrade Film Festival and the Camerimage Film Festival.
- A Little Chaos (2014)
- The 50 Year Argument (2014)
- Public Speaking (2010)
- Away We Go (2009)
- The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (2008)
- Lou Reed's Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse (2008)
- Shine a Light (2008) (camera operator)
- Be Kind Rewind (2008)
- Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006)
- Block Party (2005)
- No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
- The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) (segments "Renee" and "No Problem")
- Analyze That (2002)
- Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (2002)
- Blow (2001)
- Bamboozled (2000)
- Summer of Sam (1999)
- 4 Little Girls (1997)
- I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)
- Angela (1995)
- Swoon (1992)
Awards and nominations
Academy Award for Documentary Feature
- 2009 – The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), nominated, with Thavisouk Phrasavath
Primetime Emmy Awards
- 2010 – The Betrayal – Nerakhoon, won (Exceptional Merit in Non-Fiction Filmmaking for PBS's P.O.V.)
- 1998 – 4 Little Girls, nominated (Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming – Cinematography)
Sundance Film Festival
- 2008 – The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), nominated (Grand Jury Prize: Documentary)
- 2002 – Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, won (Cinematography Award: Dramatic)
- 1995 – Angela, won (Cinematography Award: Dramatic)
- 1992 – Swoon, won (Cinematography Award: Dramatic)
Independent Spirit Awards
- 2008 – The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), nominated (Best Documentary)
- 2002 – Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, nominated (Best Cinematography)
- 1992 – Swoon, nominated (Best Cinematography)
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography
- 2005 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, nominated