Jan Kounen

Contrary to the anthropologist who remains apart from the phenomenon being studied, the artist fuses with their subject through a sensory and non-theoretical approach

He’s as much a short film genius as he is with advertising, this film enthusiast, director, producer and experienced scriptwriter, works with great care to take us on a journey of self-discovery, a search for another reality, through his works.

Updated on 13/11/2020

5 min

After studying at the École Nationale d'Art Décoratif in Nice, where he made his first short films, Jan Kounen became an assistant camera operator and film-maker of music videos and documentaries. In the 1990s, he worked a lot in advertising, making two noteworthy short films whilst doing so, Vibroboy (1994) and Le dernier chaperon rouge (The last Red Riding Hood) (1996). In 1996, he presented his first feature film Dobermann, followed by Blueberry in 2004 and 99 Francs which broke away from the previous genre but showed impressive visual effects. He had made his place in film. He made an undertaking with chief Raoni to try to save the Amazonian forest and started taking an close interest in VR.

Having tried psychotropic plants during his trips to South America, the Netherlands-born French director, producer and scriptwriter became interested in invisible worlds and formed a great friendship with Guillermo Arevalo Valera, alias Kestenbetsa, a Shipibo shaman from Peruvian Amazonia. Shamanic experiences shown for example in the film Blueberry (2004), in the documentary Other worlds (2004) or in 2006, with Darshan, The Embrace, a documentary about Amma, the Indian woman that people from all other the world come to see to receive her darshan (embrace). In 2011, he made an undertaking to save the Amazonian forest alongside chief Raoni, then in 2019 he made an astonishing film in VR about ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogenic plant the Amazonian Shamanic tribes have used for millennia, with strong medicinal properties: Ayahuasca, KosmiK Journey.

In 2019, his three VR projects VR - 22.7°C, 7 Lives and Ayahuasca – Kosmik Journey were presented at the Tribeca Film Festival. At that time, Jan Kounen was awarded the New Writing Prize-SCAM for -22.7°C and the Special Mention from the Jury for 7 Lives. Note that -22.7°C was also shown exclusively, just a month before at SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin. Tribeca is a prestigious American independent film festival, founded by Robert De Niro in 2002, which brings together major names in film each year. Cinematographic and television creations, plus Immersive experiences and VR, are shown there over a ten-day period.

  • 1997


    He makes his first feature film, Dobermann, adapted from the work by Joël Houssin.

  • 2004


    The film-maker presents his second feature film, Blueberry, adapted from the eponymous comic books of Gir and Charlier.

  • 2007


    Change of scene: Jan Kounen directed 99 Francs, a caricature of the advertising world adapted from Frédéric Beigbeder’s bestseller.

  • 2009


    His film, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, closed the Cannes Film Festival.

  • 2016


    He co-directed Mère Océan (The Journey) with his partner Anne Paris. This documentary follows the pregnancy of the freediver Leina Sato.

  • 2019


    Jan Kounen produces three virtual reality works: -22.7°C, 7 Lives and Ayahuasca – Kosmik Journey.

Institut français and the artist

7 Lives et Ayahuasca - Kosmik Journey de Jan Kounen are in he “VR Immersive Experiences” catalogue presents some forty original works at the intersection of virtual reality, live entertainment and visual arts.

It introduce partners of the cultural network (theatres, museums, cultural centres, art centres, festivals, shopping centres, etc.) to new kinds of shows and exhibitions which meet a growing public demand for forms of entertainment and cultural offerings with a strong digital dimension.

Find out the catalogue VR Immersive Experiences here


7 lives by Jan Kounen will also be presented to the participants of the Focus digital arts and creations, organized as part of Chroniques, the Biennale of digital imagination (12 November 2020 - 17 January 2021 ). 

Find out more about the Focus digital arts and creations.



L'institut français, LAB