Laurent Cantet

What I often criticise in a script is its effectiveness. (...) The more I can be surprised by what happens, the more I take pleasure in filming, the more I feel like I am approaching the complexity of humans.

With The Class (“Entre les murs”), Laurent Cantet joined the exclusive club of French filmmakers who have won a Palme d’Or at Cannes. A subtle filmmaker, he trains an x-ray on the links between the intimate and the communal.

Updated on 29/04/2019

2 min

Laurent Cantet is a French filmmaker and scriptwriter born in 1961, the son of school teachers. Having enrolled at the IDHEC (Institute of Advanced Film Studies) in 1983, he graduated with his final project, the film Gold Miners (“Chercheurs d’or”). Since 1993, he has worked closely with Robin Campillo, co-writer and editor of nearly all his films.

From the very beginning, Laurent Cantet's cinema has dug at the question of social relations. The director is adept at delving into societal struggles: The world of business in Human Resources (“Ressources Humaines”), winner of a César Award for best début film in 2000, sex tourism with Heading South (“Vers le Sud”) in 2005, and of course the classroom, with The Class (“Entre les murs”), Palme d’Or winner at Cannes in 2008 and The Workshop (“L’Atelier”) in 2017.

Workers in Human Resources, school kids in The Class, teenage girls in Foxfire, Confessions of a girl gang (“Foxfire, confessions d'un gang de filles”) and young adults from southern France in The Workshop: The director likes to work with amateur actors, a formula that gives Laurent Cantet's cinema its full potential.

This formal experiment, which goes beyond the documentary/fiction divide and invents a unique kind of narration, is not the only way the filmmaker is able to work. As such, only professional actors were on set for Heading South and Time Out (“L’Emploi du temps”), a film inspired by the criminal tale of Jean-Claude Romand, a man trapped in a double life.

In 2008, the daily life of a Parisian middle school captivated audiences worldwide. Honoured with a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, The Class marked a turning point in Laurent Cantet's career and secured his international reputation. This success enabled the filmmaker to make his first American film: Foxfire, the story of a girl gang fighting the machismo of 1950s America.

After the Palme D’Or, he kept his cool. People said this was the right time for him to finance a film this ambitious, with lots of sets, actors and costumes” remembers Caroline Benjo from the Haut et Court production company. It is an American film, certainly, but remains true to the delicate empathy characteristic of Cantet's cinema.

Time out (L'emploi du temps)  (trailer)
Time out (L'emploi du temps) (trailer)
  • 1997


    Laurent Cantet films his first feature, Les Sanguinaires, an ARTE commission to celebrate the turn of the millennium.

  • 1999


    His first movie in wide release, Human Resources, is his introduction to the general public. The film is recognized by the César Award for the Best Début Film.

  • 2008


    The Class, an adaptation of François Bégaudeau’s novel Entre les murs, receives the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the César for Best Adaptation.

  • 2013


    Laurent Cantet films his first English-language film in the United States: Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang.

  • 2017


    For The Workshop, filmed in 2016 at La Ciotat in the south of France, Laurent Cantet brings together a professional actress, Marina Foïs, and a group of young people from the region.

The Institut français and the director.

Three films by Laurent Cantet are distributed internationally by the Institut français: Everyone at the Protest (“Tous à la manif”, 1993) Return to Ithaca (“Retour à Ithaque”, 2013) and Workshop (2016).


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.


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