[International Women’s Day] 6 Female Icons of French New Wave - more than the directors…

Female Director


International Women’s Day is coming! What to celebrate? Why don’t Alliance Française de Hong Kong share the stories of the female icons of New Wave cinema? Not only the famous director, “Mother of French New Wave” (La pionnière mére de la Nouvelle Vague) Agnès Varda, but there are also some significant figures. Let’s go and "watch" their cinematic life.


Agnès Varda: “Mother of French New Wave”

Agnès Varda as a left bank (Rive Gauche) director of French New Wave, her oeuvres focus on characters’ emotions. Plus, Varda shows her strong stands on French feminism and voices out for females and society with her experimental camera. 

Must-watch classic: Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962). The film immersing the discussion of existentialism and life and death is praised as one of the best French New Wave cinema classics.

Marguerite Duras: Create across Cinema and Literature



Marguerite Duras was not only a director, she was also a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker. 

Her script for the film Hiroshima mon amour (1959) earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. the movie is directed by French director Alain Resnais. 

Duras applies the disjointed narrative connected with the protagonist’s memory. The style of storytelling shows the feature of stream of consciousness.

Danièle Huillet: Love and Films



Danièle Huillet is also a French New Wave female director coworking with her husband Jean-Marie Straub. Straub-Huillet met each other in 1954 and started collaborating for videos and films. They produced together with over 25 films until Huillet’s death in 2006. They focus on presenting reality instead of filming solely aesthetically, not only visually but also in audio - both the music and sounds. 

Must-watch classic: Chronique d'Anna Magdalena Bach (1968). The film is the first Straub-Huillet work consisting of excerpts of J.S. Bach. Why can’t we experience both visual and audio enjoyment at the same time?

Suzanne Schiffman: The Script Girl On Stage


Of course, a film cannot consist only of the director. The scriptwriter is also an important role in a production. Suzanne Schiffman had collaborated with different French New Wave directors including Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. Notably, you can see the shadow of Schiffman in the character Joëlle (played by Nathalie Baye) in Truffaut’s La Nuit Américaine!

And… Hong Kong New Wave directors - Ann Hui and Mabel Cheung

New Wave cinema is not only significant in France but also in Hong Kong! French New Wave was introduced in Hong Kong in the 1960s with the art and cultural magazine The Chinese Student Weekly. The Hong Kong New Wave Cinema blossomed since the 1970s with a strong sense of localism, of course, with female directors including Ann Hui and Mabel Cheung. 

Despite the diversified style between Ann Hui and Mabel Cheung, their oeuvres perform the timeless intrigue of Hong Kong New Wave Cinema. 

Classics include Ann Hui’s The Secret (1979), The Spooky Bunch (1980), Boat People (1982) of “Vietnam Trilogy” and Mabel Cheung’s An Autumn’s Tale (1987), The Soong Sisters (1997) and City of Glass (1998).

Do you want to learn more about French cinema and French culture? Other than focusing on AFHK’s blogs, you can also take our French workshops, including one on Discovering Cinema (Découvrir le Cinéma). Click here to know more!



Meaning and History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is closely related to female labours. Early in the 1850s, American female workers started to fight for their rights and facilitated the foundation of the first female labour organisation on 8 March 1857. Since then, the Americans commemorates female protesters and fights for women’s rights every 8 March, including the 1908 protest with slogan “Bread and Rose”. The Women's Day later becomes international for immortalising the spirit and sets off nowadays’ International Women’s Day.


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