Visionary Film Director Agnès Varda Dies At Age 90

Varda was known as a moving force in feminism during the 1960s.

Director Agnes Varda on stage at the Berlinale Camera award ceremony during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin
Thomas Niedermueller / Getty Images

Varda was known as a moving force in feminism during the 1960s.

Agnes Varda, a French film director who was well-known for contributing to feminist filmmaking, passed away on March 28. Varda became famous after she rose to popularity as the only female director active during the 1960s French New Wave movement. Her family confirmed her passing on Friday.

“The director and artist Agnès Varda died at her home on the night of Thursday of complications from cancer,” her family said in a statement, according to CNN. “She was surrounded by her family and friends.”

Varda achieved celebrity status during the 1960s, earning her claim to fame as the mother of the French New Wave movement. Some of her most popular films include Cleo from 5 to 7, Happiness, and The Creatures.

The directing legend actively made films for six decades. Her achievements include 24 feature films. Varda loved her job so much that she continued working right up until she passed away. Her last and latest documentary, which was an autobiographical feature about her life and career titled Varda by Agnes, premiered in February at the Berlin Film Festival.

In 1928, Varda was born in Belgium. While she was a young girl during World War II, she and her family lived on a boat located in Sete, which is found in the south of France. Once Varda was ready to attend college, she moved to pursue her higher learning at the Sorbonne in Paris. Varda completed a degree in literature and psychology before she left the school. After finishing her degree, Varda spent time working as a photographer.

“[Varda will be] remembered for her representation of overlooked social movements, communities and cultures,” Daniella Shreir, a co-founder and editor of feminist film journal Another Gaze, said, according to CNN. “Throughout her self-reflexive documentaries, she put her middle-aged and then old-aged body on-screen, both confrontational and ludic at the same time. She utilized this playfulness until the end.”

Varda often represented the female perspective in many of her movies. For example, one of her beloved pieces, the 1985 film Vagabond, told the story of a young woman experiencing homelessness as she struggles through her life in the French countryside. Vagabond earned Varda the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

Varda also worked alongside her husband, director Jacques Demy, until he passed away in 1990. During their marriage, the couple became known as one of the most famous directorial teams in the history of French cinema.

Varda was also the first woman to win the Cannes Film Festival’s honorary Palme d’Or award. Then in 2017, Varda was awarded an honorary Oscar, and was also the first female director ever to achieve that honor.