Marion Hänsel 1949–2020

French-born Belgian filmmaker Marion Hänsel passed away on 8 June, at the age of 71. We will not forget her warm and fearless character. Her adventurous, poetic films will continue to enchant us. IFFR has always praised Hänsel’s work and earlier this year presented a retrospective of her features and short films in a response to her recent autobiographical film. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye. We extend our sympathies to her family, friends and admirers. “Marion Hänsel, à la vie”.

Marion Hänsel is known for her deeply personal films that most often explored adult-child relationships. Her last film, Il était un petit navire (2019), was a poetic journey through her own memories: her childhood, her artistic practice, her loved ones including her son Jan, with whom she was close.

Marion Hänsel, à la vie

In response to her autobiographical film, this IFFR 2020 retrospective completed the portrait of a singular voice in filmmaking, writing, producing and acting.

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Her short film Equilibres, shown at IFFR in 1977, was her foray into filmmaking. Her second film, Dust (1985), an adaptation of a Coetzee novel, won the Silver Lion at Venice. Later, Il maestro (1991) won the Audience Award at San Sebastián, and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1995) was selected for the Golden Palm competition at the Cannes Film Festival. She also co-produced several films, such as No Man's Land (2001) and L'enfer (2005), and ran her own all-female production company, Man’s Films Productions, for over 40 years.

Hänsel was born in Marseilles but grew up in Antwerp. She later moved between Paris, Brussels and New York, to study dramatic arts and attend circus school (trapeze, tightrope, tap dancing, juggling and acrobatics). She never imagined life at the circus, but saw it as a way to play parts in films and get closer to cinema. A performer, an actor, a director, a producer and a screenwriter, Hänsel was a filmmaker that tried her hand at it all.

Hänsel was a great ambassador and friend of the festival. She presented a number of projects of her own at CineMart, IFFR’s co-production market, and went on to become a CineMart Advisory Board Member from 2003 to 2008.

Regarding Marion Hänsel

“Marion the writer, director, actor, tightrope-walker, family woman, producer, swimmer, and what have you? Marion the jack-of-all-trades”, Belgian author Alain Berenboom writes about Hänsel, his lifelong friend.

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Some words from past and present IFFR directors, who met and worked with Hänsel:

“It was wonderful to meet Marion again at the festival this year. We had a lovely conversation about En amont du fleuve and her filming in Croatia. Marion had a profound bond with the festival. I am very saddened that she is no longer with us and that we will not be able to add more chapters to her history with IFFR. Her warmth and character will be very much missed by us all, and our thoughts go out to all of her loved ones.”
– Vanja Kaludjercic, IFFR festival director.

“I came to know her first through her works, then as a colleague as she boarded the project Atlantic, after discussing the film at CineMart (my last film as producer). I was more than honoured that she was a special guest with a retrospective during my final edition of IFFR. Both her personality and works have resonated with me as a force of cinematic strength, defiance and utter humanity. I will miss her dearly.”
– Bero Beyer, festival director 2015-2020.

  • Par-delà les nuages, Marion Hänsel

  • Still: Equilibres

  • Marion Hänsel tijdens IFFR 2020 ©Marwan Magroun

  • Still: Dust

  • Still: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  • Still: Nuages, lettres à mon fils

Photo in header: Marion Hänsel tijdens IFFR 2020 ©Marwan Magroun