French Face of the Week

From sister’s shadow to Cannes spotlight

From sister's shadow to Cannes spotlight
Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi has emerged as an original and talented film director, no longer in the shadow of her younger, more famous sister, Carla. At this year's Cannes festival, she is flying the flag for women as the only female director in competition.

Who’s Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi ?

She is a 48-year-old French-Italian actor and director, and older sister of former French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Why is she in the news this week?

At the Cannes Film Festival, which opened on Wednesday, Bruni-Tedeschi is the sole female director with a chance of winning the prestigious Palme d’Or prize, for her film “A Castle in Italy.”

Tell me more.

Out of the 20 films being screened ‘in competition’ at Cannes this year, only one had a female director – Bruni-Tedeschi, for “Un Chateau en Italie.”

This comes after a huge controversy in 2012, when not a single female director had her film screened in competition.

At the time, Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of the festival appeared to add fuel to the fire by vowing that he wouldn’t want films directed by women included, just to provide a gender balance.

Only one female director has ever won the Palme d’Or at Cannes – New Zealander Jane Campion for ‘The Piano’ in 1993.

Films by female directors like Sofia Coppola, Claire Denis (also French), and Valeria Golina, are playing in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category this year, but some consider this a “sidebar” to the main competition.

CLICK HERE to view the hottest French film stars at Cannes this year.

So what are her chances?

Not great. She’s up against Oscar-winning directors like Asghar Farhadi and the Coen brothers, as well as Cannes favourites Steven Soderbergh, and Nicolas Winding Refn.

Irish bookmakers Paddy Power have given ‘A Castle in Italy’ odds of 25/1, and by their reckoning, only three films have a slimmer chance of taking home the Palme d’Or.

However, it is possible that Bruni-Tedeschi’s gender could help her chances. This year’s competition jury contains four women – Nicole Kidman, Vidya Balan, Naomi Kawase and Lynne Ramsay.

Excluding chairman Steven Spielberg, that’s a 50/50 male/female split among those who will ultimately decide which film to honour. It might just make a difference.

What else has she done?

Quite a lot really. As a director, her 2007 film ‘Actrices’ was given the Prix Spécial du Jury in Cannes.

Her first film ‘Il est plus facile pour un chameau…’ (‘It is easier for a camel…’), which she also starred in, won awards at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2003.

As an actress, she’s been active since the 1980s, and has had starring roles in 2004’s ‘5×2’ and 2005’s ‘Time to Leave,’ both by controversial French director François Ozon.

English-speaking audiences may know her from her roles in Ridley Scott’s 2006 romantic comedy ‘A Good Year’, and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated ‘Munich’, from 2005.

In 1994, she won the ‘Most Promising Actress’ title at the César Awards (France’s equivalent of the Academy Awards) from her performance as Martine, a single woman who undergoes a dramatic personality change, in ‘Les gens normaux qui n’ont rien d’exceptionnel’ (‘Ordinary people who are nothing special.’)

Bruni – I’ve heard that name before, haven’t I?

Probably, but don’t confuse Valeria with her younger sister Carla, the singer-songwriter and former model who married then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

Where did she come from?

Well, Bruni-Tedeschi was born in Turin, Italy in 1964, but just like her sister Carla, moved to France at an early age.

She studied drama and theatre in a variety of schools and universities in Paris, and starting working in theatre, TV, and eventually films, in the 1980s.

Bruni-Tedeschi has never been married, but since 2007 has been in a relationship with Louis Garrel, and actor who is almost 20 years her junior, and whom she directed in this year’s ‘A Castle in Italy.’

In 2009 she adopted her daughter, Cecille, from Africa.

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