Agnès Varda Receives Honorary Oscar

By Pat Mullen

“Tonight. I feel like dancing,” said director Agnès Varda upon receiving her honorary Oscar. “The dance of cinema.”

Varda made history last night as the first female director to receive an honorary Academy Award. The awards were handed out last night at the annual Governors Awards where honorary and special Oscars are celebrated in the premiere event that is generally seen as the kick off to awards season.

The director scooped up fellow director Angelina Jolie, who presented her with the award, and spun her for a waltz on stage.

“I got many awards,” Varda said in her speech. “Here in the Mecca of cinema, Hollywood, I’ve received the best one.”

Varda received the award in recognition of her lifelong commitment to cinema and for her role as the “Mother of the French New Wave.” Varda is best known for her groundbreaking Cléo from 5 to 7, a film school staple and pivotal work for carving a space for female voices in cinema.

Her documentaries are works of playful poetry and often deeply personal films. Varda has never been nominated for an Oscar despite a prolific body of work and accolades from every major film festival. Her recent docs The Gleaners and I (2001) and The Beaches of Agnès (2008) were critical favourites that failed to make the cut with the Academy. The director could land her first nomination for the critically acclaimed Faces Places, co-directed with French artists JR, which won the Golden Eye at Cannes at the People’s Choice Award for documentary at TIFF. The film is a favourite ahead of next month’s documentary short list.

Other honorees at the Governors Awards included Canadian actor Donald Sutherland (Ordinary People), director Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep), and cinematographer Owen Roizman (Network). Birdman and The Revenant director Alejandro G. Iñárritu received a special Oscar for his virtual reality project Carne y Arena, which marked the filmmaker’s fifth award from the Academy and the first Oscar win for VR.

Watch Angelina Jolie, Jessica Chastain, Kimberley Pierce, and Kate Amend honour Varda at the ceremony: