Agnes Varda, French New Wave Film Director, Dies at 90

In 2017, she became the first female director to receive an honorary Oscar

Last Updated: March 29, 2019 @ 6:14 AM

Agnès Varda, the pioneering French film director who emerged in the New Wave movement of the 1960s and continued to direct influential work including 2017’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Faces Places,” has died. She was 90.

“The director and artist Agnès Varda died at her home overnight on Thursday of complications from cancer,” her family said in a statement to Agence France-Presse. “She was surrounded by her family and friends.”

In 2017, Varda became the first female director to receive an honorary Academy Award — and one year later became the oldest nominee for a competitive Oscar for co-directing the documentary feature “Faces Places” with French street artist JR.

An acclaimed photographer, screenwriter, actress and visual artist, Varda first rose to attention with her 1962 movie “Cleo from 5 to 7.”

She followed with other films such as 1985’s “Vagabond,” 1988’s “Kung-Fu Master,” 1995’s “One Hundred and One Nights” and the autobiographical 2008 film “The Beaches of Agnes” that all played to acclaim at festivals and in the emerging art-house cinema circuit.

Varda often injected her own life into her work, from the travelogue “Faces Places” to the new autobiographical documentary “Varda by Agnes” that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival just last month.

In a 2017 interview before she accepted her honorary Oscar, Varga was thoughtful about her place in the film industry. “I guess we get awards because we have worked for the cinema, but we didn’t make money so we get honorary ones,” she told TheWrap’s Steve Pond. “We are in the margin, and proud to be there.

“The honorary award makes clear that I’m not in the business game. But I am in the cinema game. I’ve been always interested in the language of cinema, in the way you can use the cinema to push the people to dream and think and open sometimes a window that they forgot to open. I love the idea that we slightly change their mentality, at least related to images and sound. We cannot change the life, but we can bring the fresh air sometimes.”