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January 28, 2012

Claire Denis' White Material

Filmmaker Claire Denis returns to the Harvard Film Archive to present her latest work and to reminisce about her experiences on the set of Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer.

Special thanks: Florence Charmasson, Unifrance; Anne Miller, Eric Jausseran, Consulate General of France, Boston; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Film Study Center, Harvard; Verena Paravel.


Special Event Tickets $12 - Claire Denis in Person
Saturday January 28 at 7pm

White Material

Directed by Claire Denis, Appearing in Person. With Isabelle Huppert, Isaach de Bankolé, Christophe Lambert
France/Cameroon 2009, 35mm, color, 102 min. French with English subtitles


After Chocolat and Beau travail, Claire Denis returns to Africa for the setting of her latest feature film, which also marks her first collaboration with Isabelle Huppert. Huppert stars as Maria Vial, a French woman who runs a coffee plantation in an unnamed African country whose government is about to be overrun by insurgents. One week from harvesting her crops, Vial ignores the signs of impending chaos in a desperate attempt to buy time. Nicholas Duvauchelle plays Huppert’s troubled post-adolescent son, and Denis regular Isaach de Bankolé appears in a featured role as a wounded rebel leader fleeing through the countryside. The paths of these three driven characters intersect explosively against a backdrop of child soldiers, war profiteers and civilians caught up in the conflict.

Followed by

To the Devil (Aller au diable)

Directed by Claire Denis, Appearing in Person. With Jean Bena, Johan Affossini, Peter Assabal
South Korea/France 2011, digital video, color, 42 min. French and English with English subtitles


Denis’ latest work is a digital short that combines documentary, autobiography and essay film. As research for an upcoming feature, Denis travels to French Guiana to meet Jean Bena, a notorious figure celebrated by some and demonized by others. She brings with her the young actor who will play the Bena character in her film. In the process, she weaves in the history of the nearby Aluku, an isolated tribe descended from African slaves who fled into the jungle rather than be pressed into work in the gold mines.

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