The Remarkable Filmography of Denis Villeneuve

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l to r: MIFF executive director Jaie Laplante, writer/director Denis Villeneuve, MIFF managing director & senior programmer Andres Castillo; Denis Villeneuve and Jaie Laplante at MIFF 2011 introducing Incendies (Olympia Theater) 
Often pegged as one of the most talented and visually inventive filmmakers of his generation, French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has parlayed his intimate visual style and fresh approach to storytelling into a burgeoning filmography that is as equally accomplished as it is promising. Villeneuve, who abandoned an interest in entomology to pursue his love of filmmaking, first captured industry attention as part of Radio-Canada’s “La course destination monde” (1990-91), during which he produced twenty five-minute clips of his global travels and won first prize.
Villeneuve’s debut feature, Un 32 août sur terre (1998), a psychologically astute romantic comedy/road movie about a young woman who, after a near-death experience, decides she must have a child immediately and enlists her long-suffering best friend to help her. The film was selected by over 35 international film festivals that year, was part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard program, and was selected as Canada’s official entry for the Academy Award® for best foreign language film.
Un 32 août sur terre (1998), Maelstrom (2000), Polytechnique (2009)

His widely heralded follow-up film, Maelstrom (2000), a original and eccentric film – narrated by a talking fish – went on to win numerous major awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, best Canadian film at the Montreal World Film Festival, and five Genie Awards, including best picture, best screenplay and best director.

Following a couple of short films, Villeneuve returned to feature filmmaking with Polytechnique (2009), a devastating account of the most infamous mass murder in Canadian history: the murder of 14 women, most of them engineering students, at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989 by lone gunman Marc Lepine, who claimed in a suicide note that he did it because they were feminists and had ruined his life. Shot simultaneously in English and French and released in both languages, Polytechnique won virtually every major Jutra and Genie Award and was named one of Canada’s Top Ten Feature Films in TIFF’s annual list.
Incendies (2010), filmmaker Denis Villeneuve on the red carpet at MIFF 2011, Prisoners (2013)
In 2010, Villeneuve made Incendies, the screen adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s award-winning play.  Shot in Quebec and Jordan, the film details the dramatic odyssey of a brother and sister who journey to the Middle East to fulfill their mother’s dying wish to find the father they’ve never met and a sibling whom their mother was forced to give up at childbirth. Delving deep into the theme of forgiveness in the face of unspeakable brutality, and the possibility of ending the cycle of hate, without cynicism, the film garnered an Academy Award ™ nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and was selected as the Awards Night film at MIFF 2011 the DWNTWN Gusman Gala program. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][View red carpet video clip].  In January 2011, Villeneuve was selected by Variety as one of the top ten filmmakers to watch and The New York Times named Incendies as one of the 10 best films of 2011.
Villeneuve’s latest work, Prisoners, is an unconventional, maze-like intellectual whodunit that breaks the rules of genre by focusing on character and the degrading effects of violence on people’s souls. Hugh Jackman plays a father whose daughter’s kidnapping, apparently by a psycho (Paul Dano), turns him into a vigilante, while a cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) races to find the killer and keep Jackman’s character from stepping over the line of criminality. MIFF will present a special Miami Film Society members only screening of Prisoners on Monday, September 16th.  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

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Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.