A director and sometimes actress, Danielle Arbid boasts a certain freedom with her camera. Her latest film, Passion Simple (Simple Passion), saw the Franco-Lebanese woman selected for the official competition at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. This year she is a patron of the Fabrique Cinéma de l’Institut français, the winners of which who are developing their first or second feature-length film will be welcomed to Cannes for the Festival.
Updated on 13/07/2021
Born in Lebanon in 1970, Danielle Arbid grew up in the Christian quarter of Beirut until the country was rocked by civil war. Her family decided to move to the remote mountains to flee the conflict. The secondary school pupil worked in a bureau de change but realised that this life wasn’t for her and took the risk of leaving for France at 17 years old.
Relieved, she dived into literature and dreamt of being a journalist before turning towards cinema. She began her career as a director in 1997 then created a first documentary, Seule avec la Guerre (Alone with War), which received an award at the Locarno Festival and an Albert Londres Prize in 2000. On the back of this exposure, she threw herself into fiction with Dans les champs de bataille (In the Battlefields, 2004), then Un homme perdu (A Lost Man, 2007), both of which were previewed at the Quinzaine des réalisateurs at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the space of a decade, Danielle Arbid became an accomplished film-maker reputed by her peers. Alternating between dramas and documentaries, she returned to the Cannes Film Festival in 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, to confirm her notoriety with Passion Simple, selected for the official competition.
Haunted by the unstable situation in Lebanon, Danielle Arbid began by exploring her country’s memory during a short and illusory period of peace in Seule avec la Guerre (2000), her first documentary. Constantly driven by her past in the Middle East, the characters she directs are often fleeting and lovestruck young women, like in Dans les champs de bataille (2004), Beyrouth Hotel (Beirut Hotel, 2011), or Peur de rien (Parisienne, 2016). Through these narratives of learning in the grip of exile or conflict, Danielle Arbid also casts a raw and sensual gaze on the bodies that she films, from Melvil Poupaud in Un homme perdu (2007) to Laetitia Dosch in Passion Simple (2021).
When she’s not behind the camera or writing her scripts, Danielle Arbid is also an actress (Réparer les Vivants, Les Apaches; Heal the Living, The Apaches), a photographer, and a professor at the FEMIS film and television school. A pioneering figure in the French cultural industry, she also advocates for equality and diversity in the audiovisual world through her commitment to the 50/50 collective.
The Cannes Film Festival, San Sebastian, the Toronto Film Festival, the Festival Lumière, NATfilm Festival: each of Danielle Arbid’s films has been celebrated at the biggest international festivals. Though her notoriety goes far beyond France, her work is regularly censored in Lebanon and the Middle East. Her native country, which she fled as a teenager, does not tolerate her free and defiant spirit. Given the numerous insults and death threats she receives, this progressive artist has a love-hate relationship with her origins, a relationship that continuously feeds her work.
Only with her latest film, Passion Simple (2021), adapted from the eponymous Annie Ernaux novel, has she put some distance between her and her past. With this mature work the film-maker focuses on the desires of the flesh and showcases Laetitia Dosch and dancer Sergei Polunin in a fiery romance.
Danielle Arbid leaves Lebanon for France.
Danielle Arbid begins her film-making career with her first documentary: Seule avec la Guerre.
The film-maker receives the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres medallion.
Passion Simple is selected for the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Danielle Arbid is a patron of the Fabrique Cinéma de l’Institut français.
Danielle Arbid is a patron of the Fabrique Cinéma de l’Institut français 2021.
Designed by the Institut français in close collaboration with the Festival de Cannes and the Marché du Film, and with France Médias Monde - RFI, France 24, Monte Carlo Doualiya - the International Organisation of la Francophonie and Sacem, the Fabrique Cinéma aims to promote the emergence of young creation from southern countries on the international market.
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