Josephine Decker

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Josephine Decker
Born (1981-04-02) April 2, 1981 (age 40)
Alma materPrinceton University
  • Filmmaker
  • performance artist
Years active2005–present

Josephine Decker (born April 2, 1981) is an American actress, filmmaker, and performance artist. As of 2020 she has directed four experimental feature films: the psychological thriller Butter on the Latch (2013), the erotic thriller Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014), the coming of age drama Madeline's Madeline (2018), and the semi-biographical thriller Shirley (2020). She also co-directed the documentary Bi the Way (2008) with Brittany Blockman.

Early life[edit]

Decker was raised in Texas, and is a graduate of Princeton University.[1]



Decker produced and directed her first short film, Naked Princeton, in 2005.

In 2008, Decker co-directed the documentary Bi the Way with Brittany Blockman, which focused on bisexuality in the United States. Despite being described by Variety's Joe Leydon as a "once-over-lightly examination of an alleged cultural phenomenon",[2] the film nevertheless went on to win the Alternative Spirit Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.[3]

Decker wrote and directed her second short film, Where Are You Going, Elena?, in 2009. In 2012, Decker wrote and directed the short film Me the Terrible, which was praised by Richard Brody of The New Yorker as a "wondrous short film."[4]

In 2013, Decker wrote, produced, and directed her first feature film, the experimental psychological thriller Butter on the Latch. The film garnered praise from Eric Kohn of Indiewire, who said Decker's career is "one to keep an eye on",[5] and Peter Debruge of Variety, who noted that "... Decker has fashioned the kind of feature debut the film industry simply doesn’t support, but would do well to encourage: a visually poetic, virtually free-form groove in which emotion, rather than narrative, guides viewers through a young woman’s visit to a Balkan folk music camp."[6] Decker was included in Filmmaker Magazine's 2013 list of 25 New Faces in Independent Film.[1]

In early 2014, she completed her second theatrical film, the experimental erotic thriller Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, starring Sophie Traub and Decker's frequent collaborator Joe Swanberg.[7] To raise money for the film's post-production,[8] Decker ran a crowdfunding campaign on the website Kickstarter with a goal of $15,500.[9] The campaign closed on August 22, 2013, having successfully raised $18,517.[9] In his review of the film, Eric Kohn of Indiewire gave the film a positive B+ rating and commented, "Its labyrinthine characteristics suggest the unholy marriage of Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch. While nowhere near the same level of refinement as those giants, Decker concocts a wholly enveloping vision of isolation told with a grimly poetic style that wanders all over the place but never stops playing by its own eerie rulebook."[10]

In September, 2014, it was announced that Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely had been picked up for a theatrical and VOD distribution by Cinelicious Pics with a planned release set for November, 2014.[7][11]

Decker has also appeared as an actor in many independent films, including Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent, Onur Tukel's Richard's Wedding, Saturday Morning Mystery, the romantic tragedy Loves Her Gun, and Stephen Cone's critically lauded drama film Black Box in 2013.

In November 2015 Decker served on the Jury of the 33rd Torino Film Festival. The Italian festival had already paid tribute to her work in the Onde section of 2014 edition.

Decker’s third feature film, Madeline's Madeline, screened at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals in early 2018.[12][13] The film features Molly Parker and Miranda July, and introduces 19-year-old Helena Howard as a troubled acting student whose "class exercises become increasingly immersive and personal".[13]

Performance art[edit]

In May 2010, Decker attended the last day of Marina Abramović's retrospective The Artist Is Present at MoMA. As she sat down across from Abramovic, Decker immediately disrobed and stood naked in the middle of the museum until seven security guards escorted her out over the museum no nudity policy.

Decker declared that her goal was to be "as vulnerable to [Abramovic] as she constantly makes herself to us."[14]


Decker cites as influences in her work, the films Antichrist (2009), Black Swan (2010), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Silent Light (2007), and Days of Heaven (1978), the book East of Eden, director Joe Swanberg and frequent collaborator Sarah Small.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Decker grew up as a Christian, and is now a Buddhist, having practiced the religion since at least 2011.[16]


Year Film Credited Director Credited Producer Credited Writer Credited Actor Credited Role Notes
2005 Naked Princeton Yes Yes Short film
2008 Bi the Way Yes Documentary; co-directed with Brittany Blockman
2009 Where Are You Going, Elena? Yes Yes Short film
2010 Squeezebox Yes Documentary short
2011 Uncle Kent Yes Josephine
Autoerotic Yes
Art History Yes Yes Juliette
2012 Me the Terrible Yes Yes Short film
Saturday Morning Mystery Yes Gwen
Richard's Wedding Yes Phoebe
2013 Black Box Yes Holly
Loves Her Gun Yes Charlotte
Butter on the Latch Yes Yes Yes
2014 Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Yes Yes
2015 Rosehill Yes Alice
2017 Flames Yes Yes Yes Herself co-directed with Zefrey Throwell
2018 Madeline's Madeline Yes Yes
2020 Shirley Yes
TBA The Sky Is Everywhere Yes


Year Title Role Notes
2018 Room 104 Director, writer, and actor Season 2, episode 7, "The Man and the Baby and the Man"
2020 Dare Me Director Season 1, episode 6, "Code Red"


  1. ^ a b ND (2013). "Josephine Decker". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  2. ^ Leydon, Joe (March 31, 2008). "Review: 'Bi the Way'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  3. ^ "2008 Film Festival Award Winners Announced". Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  4. ^ Brody, Richard (May 14, 2013). "Two Independent Films to Watch Out For". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  5. ^ Kohn, Eric (May 10, 2013). "A Sexy, Wild Romp You Have to See to Believe: Josephine Decker's 'Butter on the Latch'". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  6. ^ Debruge, Peter (February 10, 2014). "Berlin Film Review: 'Butter on the Latch'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Cipriani, Casey (September 5, 2014). "Cinelicious Pics Acquires Two Raunchy Josephine Decker Films". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  8. ^ Barraclough, Leo (January 24, 2014). "New Europe Picks Up Berlinale Film 'Thou Wast Mild and Lovely'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Thou Wast Mild and Lovely". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  10. ^ Kohn, Eric (February 6, 2014). "Berlin Review: Sexual Depravity Takes On Nightmarish Proportions In Josephine Decker's 'Thou Wast Mild and Lovely,' Starring Joe Swanberg". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  11. ^ Horst, Carole (September 5, 2014). "Josephine Decker's 'Butter' and 'Lovely' Bought by Cinelicious". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  12. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (January 28, 2018). ""Madeline's Madeline": The Best Film I Saw at Sundance". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Young, Deborah (February 19, 2018). "'Madeline's Madeline': Film Review, Berlin 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 20, 2018.
  14. ^ Carlson, Jen (June 10, 2010). "Marina's Unexpected Nude Speaks Out". Gothamist. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Decker, Josephine (February 7, 2018). "Josephine Decker: the films, books and people that influenced me". BFI.
  16. ^ Zafiris, Alex (August 10, 2018). "Cinema as Sacred Space: Josephine Decker Interviewed by Alex Zafiris". Bomb Magazine.

External links[edit]