French director Nicolas Philibert is one of the most respected European documentary filmmakers working today—he created many essential films throughout the 1990s, but it was the wildly popular To Be and to Have (2002) that solidified him as both a critical and international box office success. The film, which chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a rural French single-class school teacher and his students, was awarded the 2002 Louis Delluc Prize and was screened at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Philibert’s driving desire is to shed new light on contemporary French society, illuminated by his empathetic and unwavering gaze. His films unanimously bear the hallmarks of patient and considered observation, tenderness, and sensitivity. Philibert’s unique lens offers a deeper understanding of his subjects, from a captive orangutan in his 2010 New York Times Critic’s Pick film Nénette, to a glimpse at the off-limits spaces of a storied institution in 1990’s The Louvre City, to patients at a psychiatric clinic in the French countryside in 1997’s Every Little Thing.
To mark the release of Philibert’s latest film, On the Adamant, FIAF is pleased to present six of his most lauded features.