Claire Simon
© Sophie Dulac Distribution

Claire Simon

We have to tell the stories of our lives as if we were strangers to ourselves.

Universal questions within slices of life, ethnologist and filmmaker Claire Simon explores the poetry of daily life with a realist eye that wanders between documentaries and works of fiction.

Published on 08/05/2019

2 min

Born in London in 1955, Claire Simon grew up in the Var region of France and began her studies in ethnology while also learning in Arabic. Self-taught, she learned to edit and directed her first short films in the 1970s, before joining the Ateliers Varan, where she became familiar with the realist style of direct cinema.

After several short films (The Police (“La Police”), Domestic Stages (“Scènes de ménage”) and documentaries (Playtime (“Récréations”), At all Costs (“Coûte que coûte”)), in 1997 she produced her first fictional feature film, A Foreign Body (“Sinon, Oui”).

During her prolific career, the filmmaker has combined true and fictional stories, as illustrated in her films God's Offices (“Les Bureaux de Dieu”) (2008), It Burns (“Ça brûle”) (2005), or Playtime (1992), a documentary that explores the social life of children on a kindergarten playground.

In 2019, after three years of filming, the filmmaker has completed The Village (“Le Village”). This documentaries series consisting of 18 30-minute episodes was presented at the Series Mania International Festival in Lille in March 2019.

In both her documentaries and her works of fiction, Claire Simon anchors her camera in reality so as to grasp all its angles, from the banality of things to the universal poetry hidden in each unique life story.

Whether she is venturing into the underground life of a large Parisian train station (Gare du Nord, 2013), wandering the fairytale paths of the Vincennes Forest (The Woods Dreams are Made of, 2015) or exploring the dreams and doubts of applicants to the Fémis film school (The Graduation (“Le Concours”), 2016), she aims to describe the world as it is, by highlighting characters rather than actors. A freedom of mood which has led the director to collaborate with great names of French cinema such as Reda Kateb and Nathalie Baye.

Since her first fiction feature film, A Foreign Body, shown in 1997 at Cannes as part of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Claire Simon has presented many of her films at prestigious international festivals which have contributed to the popularity of her work outside of France.

In 2013 the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival dedicated retrospectives to her work. In 2016, her film The Graduation won the Venezia Classici award for best documentary at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.

Praised by critics around the world, in 2014 the filmmaker was honoured as an Officer of the French Ordre des Artes et des Lettres for her contribution to the dissemination of French culture abroad.

Gare du Nord ( trailer)
Gare du Nord ( trailer)
  • 1988


    Claire Simon receives the Grand Prize for short films at the Entrevues de Belfort Festival for The Police.

  • 1995


    Her documentary At All Costs is praised for its realistic tale of the bankruptcy of a small French company.

  • 2008


    God’s Offices (“Les Bureaux de Dieu"), a work of realist fiction, receives the SACD prize at the Cannes Film Festival Directors' Fortnight.

  • 2013


    Her film Gare du Nord, the fruit of several years of immersion in the Paris train station, is named four times as an official selection at the Locarno Film Festival.

  • 2016


    Claire Simon wins the award for Best Documentary at the Venice International Film Festival with The Graduation.

  • 2018


    With Young Solitude (“Premières Solitudes”), Claire Simon paints a funny and mischievous portrait that shatters clichés about today's teenagers. It was presented at the Berlinale Forum.

The Institut français and the director.

Four films by Claire Simon are distributed internationally by the Institut français: Recess (“Récréations”, 1992), At All Costs (“Coûte que coûte”, 1995), Gare du Nord (2012), The Woods Dreams Are Made of (“Le bois dont les rêves sont faits”, 2015).


The Institut français offers a catalogue of over 2,500 titles, enabling the French cultural network and its partners to screen French films around the world.


Learn more about the film catalogue.


From 9th to 16th May 2019, Claire Simon will be accompanying a retrospective to 6 of its cities in Romania, presented as part of the French Film Festival and the 2019 France-Romania Season.


L'institut français, LAB