News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. June 14, 2019: A Caribbean national who has made history as the first black woman to direct a Hollywood film has been honoured with a week dedicated to her this Caribbean American Heritage Month.
The Caribbean Lens International Film & Arts Festival wraps up the ‘Euzhan Palcy Week’ today, June 10-14th, named after Martinican international film director Euzhan Palcy.
Tomorrow June 15, 2019, Palcy, 61, will receive the Festival’s Trailblazer Award at a gala event in Hollywood, California.
Born in Martinique and an avid student of literature, theater, art and film, Palcy’s breakthrough as a global film director, writer and producer came via “Sugar Cane Alley,” a portrait of native life in Martinique under French colonial rule in the 1930s.
Released to great acclaim in 1983, it won a 1984 César Award, the French equivalent of an Academy Award, for Best First Feature Film, a first for a woman and for a black director, and more than a dozen other international prizes, including the Silver Lion Best First Film and Best Lead Actress awards at the 1983 Venice Film Festival, more firsts for a black director.
Palcy later moved on to become the first black female director of a film produced by major Hollywood studio MGM. The film, “A Dry White Season,” explored the injustice and exploitation of apartheid in South Africa. It was partially filmed undercover in apartheid Soweto and included top actors – Donald Sutherland, Susan Sarandon and Marlon Brando, whom Palcy coaxed out of retirement and directed to a 1990 Best Supporting Actor nomination.
This made Palcy the only woman filmmaker ever to direct Brando and the first black director, now joined by Spike Lee, to guide an actor to an Oscar nod.
In 1992, she wrote and directed the musical and fantasy film, ‘Siméon,’ with Kassav, the Godfathers of Zouk Music. There after, in 1994, she filmed the documentary trilogy ‘Aimé Césaire: A Voice For History,’ which was reissued in 2006 as ‘Aimé Césaire: A Voice For The 21st Century and directed and co-produced Ruby Bridges (Disney, 1998).
The film, ‘The Killing Yard,’ (Paramount/Showtime) followed in 2001 for which she received a Silver Gavel Award for “Best Film About Justice” by The American Bar Association.
In 2006, she directed the French documentary ‘Parcours de Dissidents (The Journey Of The Dissidents),’ which tells the incredible story of 5,000 French West Indians, young fighters (boys and girls) during World War II. Her struggle for their national recognition was officially acknowledged by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who presented to her France’s highest award: the Legion of Honor on behalf of all those courageous war veterans.
In 2007, she directed the historical drama, ‘The Brides Of Bourbon Island (Les Mariées de L’Île Bourbon),’ about the colonization of the Reunion Island during the 17th century.
In a poll by the BBC/British Film Institute’ citing The 100 most Iconic Black Screen Icons of the Last 100 years, Palcy ranks among the top three in both the female and director’s categories.
In 2011, President Sarkozy asked her to direct the film that launched France’s National Tribute to Aimé Cesaire at the Pantheon; Cannes Film Festival and the MoMA (New York City’s Museum of Modern Art), which honored her for this work. Later that year, Palcy was decorated with the Officer Medal of National Order of Merit by President Sarkozy.
Palcy‘s films have undoubtedly a huge impact initiating humanitarian efforts globally for causes extremely important to her core values as a filmmaker and a person.
She manages her time between her humanitarian work – helping disabled or very ill young people to rebuild themselves and achieve their dreams – and the development of new European and American film projects.
A high school, a movie theater and a road bear her name.
The Euzhan Palcy Week will close today, June 14th, with the screening of her third feature film, “Simeon,” at the Writer’s Guild Theater.