Born in Martinique, Euzhan Palcy is a film director, writer and producer. In 1983, she directed Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Nègres) putting the French West Indies on cinema’s world stages. 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 director (male or female) to be granted this prestigious award.
Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Nègres) won more than 17 international awards including the Silver
Lion and Best Actress awards at the Venice Film Festival.
The first black female director produced by
a major Hollywood studio (MGM)
Born in Martinique, Euzhan Palcy is a film director, writer and producer. In 1983, she directed Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Nègres) putting the French West Indies on cinema’s world stages. This critically acclaimed film went on to win the Silver Lion and Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival and the prestigious Cesar Award (French Academy Award) for best first film, making Euzhan Palcy the first woman and the first black director (male or female) to be granted this prestigious award.
In 1989, she wrote and directed the anti-apartheid film “A Dry White Season” and became the first black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM).
She successfully brought Marlon Brando back to the cinema screens as an anti-apartheid lawyer alongside Donald Sutherland, Susan Sarandon, Janet Suzman and Jürgen Prochnow.
To make an accurate portrait, she risked her life and traveled to South Africa, defying the secret services of the apartheid regime with the help of Dr. Nthato Motlana, Nelson Mandela’s physician and friend who smuggled her in Soweto. She posed as an undercover recording artist looking for choristers while she interviewed secretly, in reality, the victims of the apartheid regime.
To give a voice to oppressed South Africans, she convinced the studio to hire an all-South-African black cast (Zakes Mokae, Winston Ntshona, John Kani, Thoko Ntshinga). .MGM released A Dry White Season in September 1989. The South Africa regime prohibited the film, enraged by the truths exposed to what they were doing to the people who opposed them.
Euzhan Palcy is the only woman and the only black director (male or female) who succeeded to direct an anti-apartheid narrative feature film during Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison.
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.
The first woman and first black director (male or female) to have won a César — French Oscar
In 1992, she wrote and directed the musical and fantasy film Siméon with Kassav, the Godfathers of Zouk Music. There after she filmed the documentary trilogy Aimé Césaire : A Voice For History (1994, reissued in 2006 as Aimé Césaire : A Voice For The 21st Century ) and directed and co-produced Ruby Bridges (Disney, 1998). At the movie’s premiere President Bill Clinton and Disney CEO Michael Eisner introduced the movie. The film The Killing Yard (Paramount/Showtime) followed in 2001. She received a Silver Gavel Award for “Best Film About Justice” by The American Bar Association. Her films have undoubtedly had a huge impact initiating humanitarian efforts globally for causes extremely important to her core values as a filmmaker and person. She is currently a distinguished recipient of the French Legion of Honor for her work and social causes.
In 2006, she directed the French documentary Parcours de Dissidents (The Journey Of The Dissidents)
which tells the incredible story of 5,000 French West Indians, young fighters (boys and girls) during
World War II. Her struggle for their national recognition was officially acknowledged by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who presented to her 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 (Les Mariées de L'Île Bourbon), 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 London screened her movie Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Nègres). 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 director's categories.
In 2011, President Sarkozy asked her to direct the film that launched France’s National Tribute to Aimé Cesaire at the Pantheon ; Cannes Film Festival and the MoMA (New York City's Museum of Modern Art) honored her for this work. Later that year, Palcy was decorated with the Officer Medal of National Order of Merit by President Sarkozy.
In 2013, Euzhan Palcy is awarded the Honorary Henri Langlois World Cinema Prize. The same year she presided FESPACO (Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagougou) Grand Jury. It is a first for a woman.
Siméon is part of the Cannes Classics official selection to celebrate Aimé Césaire's centenary of birth.
On June 1, 2014 French President Francois Hollande hosted the presidential screening of Parcours de Dissidents (The Journey Of The Dissidents) at the Elysée Palace to launch the National Tribute to "the Dissidents" and the 70th anniversary of WWII Normandy and Provence landings.
The heros in her film aka 'The Dissidents' received a full week of tributes at the Invalides, the National Assembly, the Senate, the Panthéon and in Normandy.
On April 28, Freedom Day 2017, 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 (A DRY WHITE SEASON) 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 Euzhan 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.
For Women's Month 2019, The Wrap included Euzhan Palcy in its all-time list of '17 Women Who Revolutionized Hollywood'. S
For Women's Month 2021 Toronto International Film Festival made Euzhan Palcy its new 'Share Her Journey Ambassador'
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.
Euzhan Palcy is the only black director (male or female) to get a feature film produced about apartheid in the United States during Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison. She is also the only woman in the world who managed to direct a narrative feature film during South Africa’s apartheid period.
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.
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.
When the promotion was over, she returned home to Paris exhausted and depressed. The filming had been tough and she was especially haunted by the testimonies of apartheid victims.
She remained in this state for almost two years until the writing of Siméon gave her the spark.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
(1928 - 2014) author, poet, and civil rights activist
Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (France)
Officer of the National Order of Merit
Knight of Les Arts et des Lettres
Grand Companion of the Order of Oliver R. Tambo (South-Africa)
Holder of the keys to New York, New Orleans, Atlanta & Sarasotta.
Gold Medal of Martinique
2021 Toronto International Film Festival 'Share Her Journey' Ambassador
2019 Inductee on the June Caribbean-American Heritage Wall of Fame
2018 Inductee on the Black Achiever's Wall of the International Slavery Museum of Liverpool for the Centenary of the Women's Vote in the UK.
2019 The WRAP: 17 Women Who Revolutionized Hollywood (All-time list)
2016 Sabela International Recognition Award (South Africa Honorary Award)
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 Grand Jury
2011 Elle.fr magazine's 17 Most Influential Women of the Planet
2011 Euzhan Palcy's Retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
2011 Cannes Film Festival's Tribute to Euzhan Palcy
2010 The Most Powerful Black Women in Europe
1994 John Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts
1990 Candace Award 'Trailblazer'
1989 People magazine's 10 Most Inspiring Women
1989 First black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio
1984 First woman and first black director winner of a French Oscar
1983 First black winner of a Venice Film Festival Silver Lion
2015 My Chat with President Mandela
2014 Saving Nadine
2011 Synoptic short for the National Tribute of France to Aime Cesaire at the Panthéon .the film introduced former French President Nicolas Sarkozy 's eulogy.
2010 The Journey of the Dissidents & the French West Indian WWII Resistance fighters
DVD: 8h30 of film.
2008 Césaire / Senghor: l’Ami Fondamental
Hosted by French President Hollande in 2014 at the Élysée Palace for
the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy and
Provence WWII Landings.
2001 The Killing Yard
Best film about Justice by the American bar Association
1998 Ruby Bridges
President Clinton introduced the film on ABC from the White House
Reissued Aimé Césaire A Voice the 21st Century
1990 "How are the Kids" / Hassane
A UNICEF & Red Cross-sponsored six-films anthology depicting
childhood horrors around the world produced for the signature
of the UN convention for the rights of children
(with Jerry Lewis, Jean-Luc Godard…)
1989 A Dry White Season
A Dry White Season was screened by President Mandela. He then invited
Euzhan Palcy to visit him for a week in South Africa.
1983 Sugar Cane Alley
1982 The Devil’s Workshop (short film)
1975 The Messenger (short film)
1990 Orson Welles Award
1990 Tokyo International Film Festival
Grand Prix nominee
1990 Political Film Society Award for
Human Rights nominee
1990 Chicago Film Critics Association
Best Film award nominee
1990 Academy Award, Golden Globe
& BAFTA nomination for
1990 Tokyo International Film Festival
Best Actor Award
1985 Fespaco Audience Award / First movie to receive the award
1985 Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame
1984 Houston International WordFest
/ Special Jury Award
1984 César for Best First Film*
1983 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion*
1983 Best Actress Award*
1983 Unicef Prize
1983 OCIC Award (Now Signis award)
* First for a black director
2013 Cannes Classics official selection
1995 Fespaco Black People Insitute Award
1993 Brussels International Fantasy
Film Festival Silver Raven Award
1993 Philadelphia Festival of World
Cinema: Audience Award
1993 Montreal Vue d’Afrique Film Festival
Ban Zil Kreyol award
1993 Milan Film Festival Youth Award
2002 Silver Gavel Award by the
American Bar Association
1999 Christopher Award
1998 Humanitas Prize (for screenwriter)
1999 National Educational Media
Network / Gold Apple Award
1999 Young Artist Award / Best
Performance by ayoung artist under 10
1999 Young Artist Award Best
Performance - young ensemble nominee
1999 Image Award nominee
1999 Young Star awards nominee
1999 American Cinema Editors nominee
1997 National Black Programming
Award of Excellence
International Women's Day - Toronto International Film Festival 'Share Her Journey' Ambassador
Caribbean American Heritage (CARAH) Luminary Award
Montreal Black Film Festival Pioneer Award
June Caribbean-American Heritage Wall of Fame.
March 8, Centenary of the Women's Vote in the UK International Slavery Museum Black Achiever's Wall Honouree
First Cannes Positive Cinema Week Lifetime Achievement Award
July 19 - Sabela International Recognition Award for her exceptional contribution to the South African Film Industry
July 18 - Mandela Day – Durban International Film Festival Special screening for the 25th Anniversary of A Dry White Season
Guest of Honour of the 5th Paris - Champs Elysees Film Festival with William Friedkin & Alan Parker
Tribute to Euzhan Palcy by the American Cinematheque
Screening of the Journey of the Dissidents at the French Presidential Palace hosted by President Hollande for the 70th anniversary of the WWII D-Day & Provence landings
Naming of the Euzhan Palcy junior high school in Martinique
John Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts
Candace Award by the Coalition of the 100 Black Women at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (with Dr Maya Angelou & Judith Jamison)
Glamour’s 10 Most Inspiring Women of the Year (with Diane Sawyer, Iris Long, Takado Doi : the highest ranking Japanese female politician in modern history…)
Medal of the City of Bordeaux given by mayor Alain Juppe (2013)
Officer of the National of Order of Merit given by President Sarkozy (2011)
Knight of the National Order of the Legion d’Honneur (2004)
Knight of the National of Order of Merit (1994)
Knight of the National Order des Arts et des Lettres (1984)
Gold Medal of Martinique (First recipient)
Honorary Citizen of New York,
New Orleans, Atlanta & Sarasotta.
Henri Langlois World Cinema Honour Award
Unveiling of the Euzhan Palcy road in Martinique
Opening of the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society (aka Davos for Women)
17 Most Influential Women of the Planet by ELLE.fr
Filmmaker in Focus: Euzhan Palcy, the retrospective by the Museum of Modern Art of New York City
Tribute to Euzhan Palcy by the Cannes Film Festival
The Most Powerful Black Women in Europe, the Powerlist
Cinema Verite Prize, Commitment (with Nobel Laureate for Peace Pr. Wangari Maathaï & Jane Fonda)
Unita Blackwell Award by the U.S. National Conference of Black Mayors (with Dorothy Dandridge, Jesse Jackson & Minister of Culture of Colombia Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata)
Rank #3 - BBC/BFI poll: The 100 Black Screen Icons of the last hundred years
March 25, 2007
Launch the Euzhan Palcy Retrospective at the National Maritime Museum / Royal Museums for the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British Slave Trade Act 1807
Inauguration of the Euzhan Palcy cinema & stage theatre in Picardy Region in France
Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame