Nina Menkes

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Nina Menkes is a film director who has completed seven features and a number of shorts in which she controlled all aspects of production, including directing, writing, camera operating, and editing picture and sound on her own productions.[1] She has worked in various media including Super-8, 16mm, 35mm and lately HD. Her unusual films express time, space, memory and history, through a lens of the present in works that are "an object lesson in the cinematic possibilities standard narrative misses". (Godfrey Cheshire, Variety). Menkes's films have often met with hostility, as she confronts and expresses violence in a radical way.[2] She has referred to herself as a witch, and Dennis Lim, writing in the New York Times, called her a "cinematic sorceress of the self." [3]

According to film critic and historian Berenice Reynaud:

"[Menkes] does not inscribe herself in a recognizable avant-garde tradition, she has no master and no disciples, which forces her to reinvent the history of cinema in her own terms, to struggle alone with formal and conceptual issues. This loneliness – both æsthetic and economic – is also embedded in the texture of the work. Yet, it is not the cliché loneliness of the romantic victim – it is more akin to the "night of the soul" evoked by the mystics, Dante's travel though a dark wood – or the heroic solitude of the knight-errant."[4]

For many years, Nina Menkes collaborated with Tinka Menkes, her sister, who was both her actress and creative partner. Their films have been shown in major international film festivals including Sundance, Rotterdam, Locarno, London, Viennale, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Cairo and Toronto as well as at La Cinematheque Francaise, The British Film Institute, the ICA in London, the Beijing Film Academy in China, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, LACMA and MOCA in Los Angeles.[5] Menkes was one of the first women to present a feature film at the Sundance Film Festival (Queen of Diamonds 1990 in dramatic competition).[6] She has received a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for her first feature Magdalena Viraga, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Capital Award in the discipline of Moving Image [7] two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Annenberg Foundation Independent Media Grant, an American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award, three Western States Regional Media Arts Fellowships and two Fulbright Fellowships—one to the Middle East/North Africa, and one to India.[8] Menkes was also a recipient of a DAAD Artist in Residence in Berlin Award, during her residency she tried to face the brutal truth of her family history. Her mother's family were German Jews who fled Hitler's genocide, settling in Jerusalem in 1933; her father's Austrian Jewish family were gassed to death: trauma, alienation and murderous violence are central to her work.[9] In 2002 Menkes served as DoP and co-creator of the feature documentary Massaker, shot in Beirut, about the Sabra and Shatila massacre, It premiered at the Berlinale in 2005 and received a FIPRESCI Award.[6] In 2011, the Menkes's film The Bloody Child was chosen as one of the five most important films of the past fifty years by the Jeonju International FIlm Festival in collaboration with the celebration of five decades of the Viennale International Film Festival, in Vienna, Austria. "The Bloody Child" was selected to represent the 1990s.[10]

Menkes's first fiction film without Tinka's participation, Phantom Love (2007) premiered at Sundance to rave reviews.[11] The film features Marina Shoif and Juliette Marquis in an unsettling examination of an enmeshed family in crisis. Shot on 35mm black and white film, DP Christopher Soos controlled the lighting with Menkes on camera. Produced by Kevin Ragsdale at KNR Productions.

Her most recent feature Dissolution (2010), shot in Tel Aviv in Hebrew (with some Arabic) marked her first collaboration with the Israeli David Fire, a musician and philosopher, who played the lead role as well as collaborated with Menkes on writing and editing. The trademark stunning cinematography was a collaboration between Itay Marom's lighting design and Nina Menkes on camera. The film received the "Anat Pirchi Award for Best Drama" at the Jerusalem International Film festival in 2010,[12] and was hailed by The New York Times as "exquisite and remarkable".[13]

Nina Menkes holds citizenship in Germany, the USA and Israel. She has an MFA with high honors from the UCLA Film School and has taught film directing at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Tel Aviv University's Department of Cinema, Israel, and California Institute of the Arts.[8]

The moving image collection of Nina Menkes is held at the Academy Film Archive.[14]


  • Dissolution (2010) 88 min/B&W/16:9 HD PAL
  • Phantom Love (2007) 35mm film/87 minutes
  • Massaker (2005) (co-director/director of photography) DV to 35mm/98 minutes
  • The Crazy Bloody Female Centre (2000) CD-ROM/180 minutes
  • The Bloody Child (1996) 35mm film/ 86 minutes
  • Queen of Diamonds (1991) 35mm film/77 minutes
  • Magdalena Viraga (1986) 16mm film/90 minutes
  • The Great Sadness of Zohara (1983) 16mm film/40 minutes
  • A Soft Warrior (1981) S-8 film/11 minutes


  1. ^ "Cinemad: podcast #1: Nina Menkes". 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  2. ^ Phil Coldiron (2011-05-26). "Nina Menkes' Dissolution and Phantom Love - Page 1 - Film+TV - Los Angeles". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  3. ^ Lim, Dennis (2012-02-17). "Retrospectives of the Filmmaker Nina Menkes". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Bérénice Reynaud (2008-03-16). "Nina Menkes: The Warrior and her Jiang Hu". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (2000-09-07). "Going Really Big - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  6. ^ a b Nina Menkes - Awards
  7. ^ (
  8. ^ a b "Nina Menkes | Faculty/Staff Directory". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  9. ^ David E. James (2008-03-16). "Interview with Nina Menkes". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Koehler, Robert (2007-01-22). "Variety Reviews - Phantom Love - Film Reviews - Sundance 2007 - Review by Robert Koehler". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  12. ^ "Transfax Film Productions – The Movie "Dissolution"". 2012-08-29. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  13. ^ Lim, Dennis (February 17, 2012). "A Cinematic Sorceress of the Self". New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Nina Menkes Collection". Academy Film Archive. 

External links[edit]

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