The first black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM).
The only woman who directed Marlon Brando.
The first black director who directed an actor to an Oscar nomination (tied with Spike).
The first female and the first black director who won a Cesar Award (French Oscar).
The only black director & only woman filmmaker who managed to direct an anti-apartheid narrative feature film during Nelson Mandela’s prison sentence.
Born in Martinique, Euzhan Palcy is a film director, writer and producer. In 1983, she directed
SUGAR CANE ALLEY (Rue Cases Negres) putting the French West Indies on the world
cinema stage. This critically acclaimed movie went on to win the prestigious Cesar award (French
Academy Award) for best first film making Euzhan Palcy the first black person (male or female) to be granted this prestigious award. SUGAR CANE ALLEY won more than 17 international awards
including the Silver Lion and Best Actress awards at the Venice Film Festival.
Euzhan Palcy successfully brought back Marlon Brando to cinema screens with the anti-apartheid
film, A DRY WHITE SEASON. She travelled to South Africa defying the special section of the
apartheid regime with the help of Dr. Nthato Motlana, President Nelson Mandela’s personal
physician and friend, who smuggled her into Soweto undercover. She received the Orson
Welles award for this film in Los Angeles in 1989. After his historic release from Robben
Island in 1990, the newly elected President Mandela watched the film and invited her to South
Africa in 1995 (during the first anniversary of his election). Therefore, she directed and produced
the never before seen interview titled MY CHAT WITH PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA.
Euzhan wanted A Dry White Season to be “Cinema Verité” — that is to reflect the truth —
at all costs. She was so passionate about creating an accurate portrayal that she traveled
to Soweto undercover to research the riots. With a false cover of a recording artist looking
for singers for her new album she was secretly interviewing victims of the apartheid regime
thus eluding the South African secret services.
The regime felt particularly threatened at this time and had stepped up it’s actions against
the opposition. A Dry White Season was finally released in September, 1989. South Africa banned it,
enraged by the truths exposed of what they were actually doing to the people who opposed
them. MGM had to continue engaging the two bodyguards to protect Euzhan Palcy
throughout the promotion of the film.
In 1992, she wrote and directed the musical fantasy film SIMEON with Kassav, the
Godfathers of Zouk music and premiered the Caribbean Musical Fantasy genre. Technically,
SIMEON was the first French movie produced with CGI VFX & digital scans. Palcy won the
Silver Raven Award at the Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival competing against Sam
Raimi’s Evil Dead 3 & Joe Dante’s Matinée. She also won the Public award in Philadelphia. In
2011, The MoMA acquired a copy of SIMEON for its permanent collection.
Thereafter, she filmed the documentary trilogy AIME CESAIRE: A VOICE FOR HISTORY (1994,
reissued in 2006 as AIME CESAIRE: A VOICE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY) and directed and coproduced RUBY BRIDGES (Disney, 1998). President Bill Clinton and Disney CEO Michael
Eisner introduced the movie from the White House, when it first aired. THE KILLING YARD (a
Paramount/Showtime film) followed in 2001. The film received the American Bar Association Silver
Gavel Award for “Best Film About Justice”.
In 2006, she directed the French documentary PARCOURS DE DISSIDENTS (THE JOURNEY
OF THE DISSIDENTS) which tells the incredible story of 5,000 young French West Indians
fighters (boys and girls) during World War II. Her struggle for their national recognition was
officially acknowledged by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who bestowed them
France’s highest award: the Legion of Honor on behalf of all those courageous war veterans.
In 2007, she directed the historical drama, THE BRIDES OF BOURBON ISLAND, about the
colonization of the Reunion Island during the 17th century. That same year to mark the
Bicentennial of the 1807 Abolition of Slave Trade Act in the UK, The National Maritime Museum of
of London hosted her first retrospective.
In a poll by the BBC/British Film Institute’ citing The 100 Most Iconic Black Screen Icons of the
Last 100 years, Euzhan Palcy ranked among the top three in both the female and directors
In 2011, President Sarkozy asked her to create a “short cinematic synopsis” to launch France’s
National Tribute to Aimé Césaire at the Panthéon; Cannes Film Festival paid her a
Tribute and The New York City’s Museum of Modern Art organized her mid-career
Later that year, Palcy was decorated with the Officer Medal of the National Order of Merit by
On June 1 2014, for the 70th anniversary of WWII Normandy and Provence landings,
President Hollande hosted the presidential screening of PARCOURS DE DISSIDENTS
(THE JOURNEY OF THE DISSIDENTS) at the Elysée Palace as a National Tribute to the
Dissidents. The heroes in her film received a full week of tributes at the Presidential Palace,
the Invalides, the National Assembly, the Senate, the Panthéon and in Normandy.
On April 28, 2017, as part of the Freedom Day, the Republic of South Africa bestowed upon Euzhan Palcy the Order of the Companions of Oliver Reginald Tambo “for her excellent contribution to the liberation struggle by exposing South African social injustices through an international film that strengthened the revolution against apartheid”. This order is the highest honor in South Africa
for a foreign dignitary.
On March 8, 2018, The Telegraph included Palcy in its all-time list of 35 Women who changed the history of cinema while The International Slavery Museum of Liverpool inducted her on its Black Achiever’s Wall as part of its commemoration of the centennial of the woman’s vote.
Euzhan Palcy‘s films have undoubtedly a huge impact initiating humanitarian efforts globally for causes extremely important to her core values as a filmmaker and a person.
She manages her time between her humanitarian work (helping disabled or very ill young people to rebuild themselves and achieve their dreams) and the development of new European and American film projects.
The Filmmaker holds the keys to the cities of New York, Atlanta, New Orleans and Sarassota, Fl.
In France, she is a distinguished recipient of the French Legion of Honor for her work and social causes.
A high school, a movie theater and a road bear her name.
Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (Decree 2019/01)
Officer of the National Order of Merit
Grand Companion of the Order of OR Tambo (South-Africa)
Knight of Les Arts et des Leares
Medal of the city of Bordeaux
Gold Medal of Martinique
Citizen of Honor of New York, New Orleans, Atlanta & Sarasoaa Fl.
2018 The Telegraph (UK) 35 Women who changed the history of Cinema
Inductee on the Black Achievers’ Wall of the International Slavery
Museum for the centenary of the women’s vote in the UK
Life Time Achievement Award of the first Positive Cinema Week of Cannes
The WRAP: 17 Women Who Revolutionized Hollywood
From Mary Pickford to Oprah Winfrey, here are some of the most influential
women in Hollywood. Euzhan Palcy is one of the five living women listed.
2015 Tribute to Euzhan Palcy by the American Cinematheque
2013 Unveiling of the Euzhan Palcy Road
2013 Henri Langlois World Cinema Honor Award
2013 First woman President of the Fespaco
2011 ELLE.fr magazine’s 17 Most Influential Women of the Planet
2011 Euzhan Palcy RetrospecOve at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art
2011 Cannes Film FesOval Pays Tribute to Euzhan Palcy
2010 The Most Powerful Black Women in Europe
2007 #3 to the BBC/BFI poll: “The All-Time Black Screen Icons”
1998 Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame
1994 John Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts
1989 People magazine’s 10 Most Inspiring Women
1989 First black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio
1984 First female and first black director winner of a French Oscar.
1983 First black winner of the Venice Film Festival Silver Lion
2015 My Chat with President Mandela
2014 Saving Nadine (Humanitarian rescue)
2011 Aime Cesaire “short cinematic synopsis” for the France’s National Tribute to Aimé Césaire at the Pantheon *
2010 The Journey of the Dissidents & WWII French West-Indian Maquisards DVD collector 8h30 of video
2008 Cesaire/Senghor: l’Ami fondamental
2007 The Brides of Bourbon Island
2006 The Journey of the Dissidents (Hosted by President Hollande of France in 2014)*
2001 The Killing Yard
1998 Ruby Bridges (premiered by President Clinton)
1994 Aimé Césaire: a Voice for History /Aime Cesaire A Voice for the XXI Century
1990 Hassane: segment of “How are the Kids” A UNICEF & Red Cross sponsored six-films anthology produced for the signature of the UN convention for the rights of children (with Jerry LewisJ
1989 A Dry White Season*
1983 Sugar Cane Alley
1982 The Devil’s Workshop
1975 The Messenger
* A Dry White Season was screened by President Mandela. He then
invited Euzhan Palcy to visit him for a week in South Africa / Ruby
Bridges was introduced by President Clinton on ABC from the White
An excerpt of Aime Cesaire: a Voice for the 21st Century
introduced President Sarkozy’s eulogy for the NaOonal Tribute of France
to Aime Cesaire at the Panthéon & The Toussaint Louverture Award by
*The Journey of the Dissidents was hosted by French President
Hollande at the Elysee Palace for the celebraOon of the 70th anniversary
of the Normandy and Provence WWII Landings.
Movie Awards (partial):
A DRY WHITE SEASON
2016 Trophée d’Honneur of the 1st Positive Cinema Week of Cannes Film Festival
2015 Sabela International RecogniOon Award (South African Oscar)
for Mandela Day by the Durban International Film Festival
1990 Orson Welles Award
1990 Tokyo International Film Festival Grand Prix nominee
1990 PoliOcal Film Society Award for Human Rights nominee
1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Best Film Award nominee
1990 Academy Award, Golden Globe & BAFTA nomination for Marlon Brando
1990 Tokyo International Film Festival Best Actor Award
2013 Cannes Classics official selection
1995 Fespaco Thomas Sankara Institute for Black People’s Award
1993 Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival Silver Raven Award
1993 Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema: Public Award
1993 Milan Film Festival Youth Award
1993 Montreal Film Festival “Vue d’Afrique” Ban Zil Kreyol Award
THE KILLING YARD
2002 Silver Gavel Award by the American Bar Association
SUGAR CANE ALLEY (Rue Cases Nègres)
2011 Cannes Classics official selection
1985 Fespaco Public Award (First movie to receive the award)
1985 Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award
1984 Houston International WordFest Special Jury Award
1984 Cesar (French Oscar) for Best First Film (A first for a black person)
1983 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion (A first for a black person)
1983 Best Actress Award (A first for a black person)
1983 Unicef Prize
1983 OCIC Award (now Signis Award)
RUBY BRIDGES (Wonderful World of Disney)
1999 Christopher Award
1999 National Educational Media Network Gold Apple Award
1999 Young Artist Award Best performance by a young artist under 10
1999 Image Awards nominee
1999 American Cinema Editors nominee
1998 Humanitas Prize (for the screenwriter)
1998 Young Star awards nominee
AIME CESAIRE: A VOICE FOR HISTORY
1997 National Black Programming Award of Excellence
Presidential & Governmental Appointments
2013 -2015 Appointed by French President François Hollande, member of the National Committee for the Memory & History of Slavery (CNMHE)
2011-2013 Appointed Chair & Member of the advisoring committee of the Martinique Film Fund at its inception
1992 -1995 Appointed by French President Miaerrand, member of the High Committee for the housing of disadvantaged people at its inception
1992 Appointed by French President Miaerrand, Member of the High Council of Francophonie at its inception