My work in film involves a deep quest to understand our place in the world, and the relations of people to each other in our efforts to coexist. Whether set in a landscape of post-war, healing or isolation, my films capture the raw emotions of those individuals and communities directly impacted. I achieve this by testing what I believe to be the limits of the emotionally and psychologically bearable, mixed in with a no-nonsense anchor into reality. This combination creates a unique voice which translates into all the films I have made—from post-genocide Rwanda to extreme Antarctica to post-Sandinista Nicaragua—and gives each viewer the power to evoke this quest on their own terms.
Multiple award-winning filmmaker Anne Aghion has been praised by critics both as a director of unique and poetic vision, and a documentarian who conveys a strong sense of the people and places she covers. Her work has earned her, among other honors, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Emmy, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival’s Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking, an Arts & Literary Arts Residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, a MacDowell Colony Elodie Osborn Fellowship, and a UNESCO Fellini Prize.
Her most recent documentary, My Neighbor My Killer, capped nearly ten years of filming the Gacaca (pr. ga-TCHA-tcha) justice process in post- genocide Rwanda. There, Aghion charted the emotional impact of a system of local open-air courts that adjudicated genocide crimes, and returned killers to their homes in exchange for confessions.
My Neighbor My Killer is one of the rare documentaries to be accepted in Official Selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, it has been invited to screen across the globe. It is the feature-length companion to a trilogy of hour-long films. Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda? (2003), and Emmy-winner In Rwanda we say… The family that does not speak dies (2005), have aired on television internationally. The final chapter, The Notebooks of Memory, was completed in 2009.
Beyond their success as documentaries, the Gacaca Films are recognized as a vital tool for understanding Rwanda’s bold experiment in social reconstruction. They have also had impact on the ground in Rwanda, where they have been used by NGOs for community-based training, and most remarkably, were screened for tens of thousands of confessed genocide killers before their release from prison.
Philip Gourevitch, author of “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, Stories from Rwanda,” has said of Aghion’s work that it “captures quite precisely much of what is most compelling and unsettling about Rwanda’s quest for justice after genocide.”
Moving in an altogether different direction, in 2008, Aghion released Ice People, a documentary feature that explores the physical, emotional and spiritual adventure of living and conducting science in Antarctica. Filmed “on the ice” over the course of four months, it was described by Variety as “staggeringly beautiful,” and received critical praise from publications as diverse as the The New York Times, USA Today, ArtForum and EARTH Magazine.
Currently in early stages of development are film projects that will take Aghion to the Indian subcontinent, and a multi-media art installation that will draw on her experiences in Antarctica and New Zealand.
Aghion splits her time between New York and Paris. She holds a degree in Arab Language and Literature from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York. Before making films, she spent close to a decade at The New York Times, and then at the International Herald Tribune in Paris.
Aghion is co-founder and Honorary President of IRIBA CENTER FOR MULTIMEDIA HERITAGE in Kigali, a place where all Rwandans will have access to the country’s audiovisual history.
My Neighbor My Killer is editor Nadia Ben Rachid’s fifth collaboration with filmmaker Anne Aghion, following their work on Emmy-winner In Rwanda we say… The family that does not speak dies, the UNESCO Fellini Prize-winner, Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda? and The Notebooks of Memory, the final chapter in the Gacaca Trilogy, as well as on the highly acclaimed Ice People, a feature-length documentary that explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual adventure of living and conducting science in Antarctica.
With the rare talent to work equally well with documentaries and features, Paris-based Ben Rachid has amassed dozens of film, television and commercial credits since 1997, including most recently Merzak Allouache’s Normal !, which won Best Arab Feature Film at the Doha-Tribeca Film Festival, Tarek Ben Ammar produced Dégage, a Chronicle of the First Arab Revolution, and Frédéric Chaudier’s Les yeux ouverts.
She has edited all the films by the world-renowned director Abderrahmane Sissako, including the 2006 feature, Bamako, which played at major showcases around the world, including the Cannes and New York film festivals. Following its stellar box office performance in France, the film was distributed to critical acclaim worldwide, including in the U.S. via New Yorker Films. In 1999, her work on Sissako’s Life on Earth earned Ben Rachid the Editor’s Award at FESPACO (Ouagadougou Pan-African Festival for Film and Television). The film premiered at Cannes and went on to collect numerous awards at festivals around the world, including the Golden Spire at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Ben Rachid also worked with noted French director Yamina Benguigui, including on television series, Aïcha, her 2002 feature Inch’Allah Dimanche; the documentary The Perfumed Garden, which won Best Documentary for that year at the African and Caribbean Film Festival (Vues d’Afrique) in Montreal; and a segment of the acclaimed 1998 documentary Mémoires d’immigrés.
Among numerous other projects, she edited Michka Saäl’s 2005 Beckett’s Prisoners for the National Film Board of Canada; the 1999 documentary Woubi Chéri for award-winning documentarians Philip Brooks and Laurent Bocahut, which garnered Best Documentary awards at the New Festival in New York, the Turin Festival in Italy, and the Transgender Festival in London; and Rachid Bouchareb’s first feature, My Family Honor.
Ben Rachid’s commercial work includes the trailer for The Michael Jackson Tour, for legendary producer Tarek Ben Ammar. Among her credits as assistant editor are Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon, Frantic, and Pirates; Claude Berri’s Germinal and Uranus; Roland Joffe’s City of Joy; Jacques Perrin’s The Children of Lumière; and Agneska Holland’s The Conspiracy.
A top Franco-Canadian cinematographer, Sylvestre Guidi has amassed more than 25 years of documentary production experience, filming from the top of the world—on the 2005 award-sweeping series Arctic Mission, by biologist-filmmaker Jean Lemire—to the bottom on Ice People. Based in Montreal, he has collaborated repeatedly with noted directors including Michka Saäl and Patricio Henriquez, and works regularly on films for the National Film Board of Canada, which air on ARTE, BBC, Discovery and other top television networks across the globe. Guidi spent more than ten years living in Mexico City as a cameraman and editor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and later for Al Jazeera, covering South America and the Caribbean.
Guidi has earned four nominations and a 1993 win for the Gémeaux—the Canadian Academy awards for French-language television. A graduate in film from Concordia University in Montreal, Guidi also studied television production at the Université de Québec à Montréal. He is fluent in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Richard Fleming, sound recordist for My Neighbor My Killer, has worked with director Anne Aghion on the Emmy-winning documentary In Rwanda we say… The family that does not speak dies, and on The Notebooks of Memory, the final chapter of the Gacaca Trilogy, as well as on Aghion’s groundbreaking documentary, Ice People. Since 1990 Fleming’s film work has brought him to the farthest reaches of the globe. He has camped the frozen deserts of Antarctica, accompanied Kofi Annan around the world, flown missions over Kandahar with the U.S. Army Reserve, followed Imelda Marcos on the presidential campaign trail in the Philippines, and sweltered on the decks of a nuclear aircraft carrier plying the waters of the Persian Gulf. Among his numerous documentary credits are the upcoming Half the Sky, for PBS, based on Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s award-winning book, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre, Granito, How to Nail a Dictator by noted director Pamela Yates, From Kansas to Kandahar, by director Cal Skaggs for the PBS series America at a Crossroads, Show of Force’s Carrier, and Kofi Annan: Center of the Storm, by David Grubin, both for PBS; Sumo East and West, by Ferne Pearlstein, and Iron Butterfly, The Story of Imelda Marcos, by Ramona Diaz, both for ITVS. Other credits include Les Illuminations de Madame Narval, by Charles Najman, for the Franco-German television channel ARTE, and work as both a writer and recordist on Alex Wolfe's “Santo Domingo Blues.”
His dramatic credits include the multiple award-winning theatrical feature “La Ciudad,” by David Riker.
Fleming is also an accomplished writer, photographer, and amateur musicologist. His blog, A Brooklynite on the Ice, features the filmmakers' adventures during the four-month shoot in Antarctica. His book, Walking to Guantanamo, and the companion volume of Photographs, "The Road to Guantanamo," chronicling Fleming's year-long walk across the island of Cuba, have garnered glowing critical praise.
Laurent Petitgand composed the original score for Ice People. A prolific composer, recording artist, arranger, performer and actor, Laurent Petitgand’s work has been featured in a long list of films by internationally recognized directors.
A seven-time collaborator with Wim Wenders—both on his own and with his band Dick Tracy—Petitgand composed for the films Tokyo-Ga (1985), Wings of Desire (1986), Arisha, The Bear and The Stone Ring (1992), Faraway, So Close! (1993), Beyond the Clouds co-directed with Michelangelo Antonioni (1995), and Lumière and Company (1996). Wenders and Petitgand also worked together on a musical stage version of Lumière and Company.
In addition to Ice People, recent film projects include The Inner Life of Martin Frost by Paul Auster, Les Gueules Noires by Rodolphe Bertrand et Marianne Tardieu, La Sieste by Laurent Halgand, Ferrari 49 by Michael Klier, Le Dernier Silence by Damien Boyer, Cowboy Angels–a second collaboration with Kim Massee, and Sunday in Winter by Hella Wenders.
Petitgand has worked with filmmakers including Pascal Rémy, Philomène Esposito, Christophe Le Masne, Solveig Dommartin, Philippe Niang, Sébastien Régnier, Dan Mestanza, Jan Schütte, Carole Tresca.
Among many other musical accomplishments, Petitgand has composed for theatre and dance, particularly for choreographer Angelin Preljocaj's ballet company, where he met his wife, the dancer and actress Katia Medici.
A self-taught musician who plays guitar, piano and saxophone, Petitgand was raised in a family of nine children. He performed in his church choir from the ages of 7 to 14 before launching his professional career, first as a solo artist and then with several bands.
Petitgand has also acted in some dozen productions, including many of the films that he scored. His first role was that of the Alekan Circus conductor in Wings of Desire, and he appeared subsequently in the movies of Solveig Dommartin, Kim Massee, Pascal Rémy, and Christophe Le Masne, among others.
Benoit Gryspeerdt joined Anne Aghion as a producing partner on Ice People, following his work as production manager on her previous award-winning films, In Rwanda we say…The family that does not speak dies, and Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda?
Previously, Gryspeerdt was Director of Finance and Administration at Ardèche Images which, among other activities, runs the Etats Généraux du Film Documentaire, one of the leading documentary festivals in France. He spent 2001-2005 at Dominant 7, a Paris-based production company responsible for a long slate of internationally distributed, award-winning films. Joining the company as production manager and moving up to line producer, he worked on over a dozen projects in collaboration with major production companies, broadcasters and funders, including ARTE, Canal + and Studio Canal, BBC, the Soros and Sundance documentary funds, and more. In this capacity, he was involved as production manager on Aghion’s earlier films, which were co-produced by Dominant 7. Prior to Dominant 7, Gryspeerdt was Financial Controller for MK2, one of Europe’s leading film companies. He began his career at the television and film-acquisition arm of TF1, where he helped develop rights management software.
"Moody, atmospheric and often refreshingly down-to-earth, it's not quite like any previous film about Antarctica. The director, Anne Aghion, likes to fill the screen with the kinds of lonely landscapes that David Lean once used to suggest another kind of desert." - John Hartl, The Seattle Times (pdf)