Directors: Sciamma, Celine–Feminist French Filmmaker (LGBTQ, Lesbian)

Celine Sciamma (French: born November 12, 1978) is a French screenwriter and film director.

She is known for her films Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011), Girlhood (2014), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019).

A common theme in Sciamma’s films is the fluidity of gender and sexual identity among girls and women. She has contributed to discourse with cinema regarding the female gaze.

She won the Cannes Film Fest Award for Best Screenplay for Portrait of a Lady on Fire and has been nominated for 6 César Awards, winning once for Best Adaptation for her work on My Life as a Courgette (2016).

Sciamma was raised in Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb outside of Paris. Her father, Dominique Sciamma, is a software designer, and her brother, Laurent Sciamma, is a stand-up performer and graphic designer.

Before attending La Fémis, the première French film school, Sciamma earned her master’s degree in French Literature at Paris Nanterre University. As a child, she was avid reader and became interested in film as a teenager.

Sciamma cites her grandmother as inspiration to her love of film, saying that 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.

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.[10] Xavier Beauvois, who was chairman of the evaluation panel, and could be considered as her mentor, persuaded her to make the film. A year after finishing school, she began shooting the film in her hometown.

Sciamma’s debut film, Water Lilies, was selected for the section Un certain regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Fest. 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  nominated for Most Promising Actress.

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

Her 2011 film Tomboy was written and shot in a matter of months. Sciamma wrote the script in three weeks, completed casting in three weeks, and shot the film in 20 days. It premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama section of the festival. The film was shown in French schools as part of an educational program.

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

Since 2015, Sciamma has served as the co-president of the SRF (Society of Film Directors).

In addition to directing her own films, Sciamma serve 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.

Sciamma’s fourth feature, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, premiered In Competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Fest, where it won the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay.

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

Sciamma’s fifth feature, Petite Maman, premiered at the 2021 Berlin Film Fest. It also screened at the 2021 San Sebastián International Fest, where it won the Audience Award.[22]

A feminist, Sciamma was a founding member of the French branch of the 5050 by 2020 movement, a group of French film industry professionals advocating for gender parity in film by the year 2020.

Sciamma uses her platform to speak about the restrictions of the male gaze and present movies that elevate the female gaze.[26] She sees her work, particularly Portrait of a Lady on Fire, as a manifesto of the female gaze. Sciamma stated in an interview that, “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.”

In 2018, she co-organized and participated in the women’s protest against inequality at the 2018 Cannes Film Fest alongside many other notable women, including Agnès Varda, Ava DuVernay, Cate Blanchett and Léa Seydoux.

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

In 2020 Sciamma and the Portrait of a Lady on Fire team joined lead actress Adèle Haenel in walking out of the 45th César Awards after Roman Polanski won the award for Best Director.

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.”

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

Sciamma frequently collaborates with Para One, who has scored all her films and directed scripts by Sciamma in the past.

She also teams with cinematographer Crystel Fournier, who also did the cinematography for Sciamma’s Girlhood trilogy.

She is noted for casting non-professional actors in her films. She also frequently casts actress 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 characterization, which is why, though uncredited, she is often the costume designer for her films.

Sciamma has cited David Lynch as an influence, along with Virginia Woolf, “the greatest novelist,” and Chantal Akerman, “one of the most important filmmakers.”

Sciamma has displayed distinct thematic elements in her films, like gender and sexuality. Her films look at lesbianism and queerness, and how they are represented on screen. She focuses on the idea of the body, and how touch is related to it within cinema.

She has dissected identity and representation in film, such as black identity in Girlhood, and motherhood identity in Petite Maman.

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. She also likes to conceptualize the idea of ‘looking,’ using Russian nesting dolls as a metaphor of ‘looking within looking.’

Sciamma does not believe in having a muse for her work, and despite relationship with Haenel, she claimed that the relationships on screen are of collaboration and subversion, not fascination.