Wim Wenders

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Wim Wenders
MJK30764 Wim Wenders (Berlinale 2017).jpg
Wenders at the Berlinale 2017
Ernst Wilhelm Wenders

(1945-08-14) 14 August 1945 (age 77)
OccupationFilmmaker, director, screenwriter, playwright, author, photographer
Years active1967–present
Edda Köchl
(m. 1968;div. 1974)

(m. 1974;div. 1978)

(m. 1979;div. 1981)

(m. 1981;div. 1982)

Donata Wenders
(m. 1993)
Awards Golden Lion
for The State of Things (1982)
Golden Palm
for Paris, Texas (1984)
Cannes Film Festival
Grand Jury Prize
for Faraway, So Close! (1993)
Silver Bear Jury Prize
for The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
Website www.wim-wenders.com

Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (German: [ˈvɪm ˈvɛndɐs] ; born 14 August 1945) is a German filmmaker, playwright, author, and photographer. [1] He is a major figure in New German Cinema. Among many honors, he has received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature: for Buena Vista Social Club (1999), about Cuban music culture; Pina (2011), about the contemporary dance choreographer Pina Bausch; and The Salt of the Earth (2014), about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.


One of Wenders's earliest honors was a win for the BAFTA Award for Best Direction for his narrative drama Paris, Texas (1984), which also won the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Many of his subsequent films have also been recognized at Cannes, including Wings of Desire (1987), for which he won the Best Director Award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

Wenders has been the president of the European Film Academy in Berlin since 1996. Alongside filmmaking, he is an active photographer, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes. [2] [3] He is considered an auteur director. [4]

Early life

Wenders was born in Düsseldorf into a traditionally Catholic family. His father, Heinrich Wenders, was a surgeon. The Dutch name "Wim" is a shortened version of the baptismal name "Wilhelm". As a boy, Wenders took unaccompanied trips to Amsterdam to visit the Rijksmuseum. He graduated from high school in Oberhausen in the Ruhr area. He then studied medicine at the University of Freiburg (1963–64) and philosophy at the University of Dusseldorf (1964–65), but dropped out and moved to Paris in October 1966 in order to become a painter. [5] Wenders failed his entry test at France's national film school, IDHEC (now La Fémis), and instead became an engraver at Johnny Friedlaender's studio in Montparnasse. [5] During this time Wenders became fascinated with cinema, and saw up to five movies a day at the local movie theater.

Set on making his obsession his life's work, he returned to Germany in 1967 to work in the Düsseldorf office of United Artists. That fall, he entered the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München (University of Television and Film Munich). [5] Between 1967 and 1970, while at the "HFF", he also worked as a film critic for FilmKritik, the Munich daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung , Twen magazine, and Der Spiegel . [5]

Wenders completed several short films before graduating from the Hochschule with a 16mm black-and-white film, Summer in the City (1970), his feature directorial debut.


Wenders's career began in the late 1960s, the New German Cinema era. Much of the distinctive cinematography in his movies is the result of a long-term collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire were the result of collaborations with avant-garde authors Sam Shepard and Peter Handke. Handke's novel The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick was adapted for Wenders's second feature film, The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty . Handke co-wrote the script for Wings of Desire .

Wenders with Carrie Fisher in 1978 Carrie Fisher and Wim Wenders.jpg
Wenders with Carrie Fisher in 1978

Wenders has directed several highly acclaimed documentaries, most notably Buena Vista Social Club (1999), about Cuban musicians, and The Soul of a Man (2003), on American blues. He also directed a documentary-style film on the Skladanowsky brothers, known in English as A Trick of the Light. [17] The Skladanowsky brothers were inventing "moving pictures" when several others like the Lumière brothers and William Friese-Greene were doing the same. Buena Vista Social Club and his documentaries on Pina Bausch, Pina , and Sebastiao Salgado, The Salt of the Earth , received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Wenders has also directed many music videos for groups such as U2 and Talking Heads, including "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and "Sax and Violins".[ citation needed ] His television commercials include a UK advertisement for Carling Premier Canadian beer.[ citation needed ]

Wim Wenders at Cannes in 2002 Wim Wenders(cannesPhotocall)-.jpg
Wim Wenders at Cannes in 2002

Wenders's book Emotion Pictures, a collection of diary essays written as a film student, was adapted and broadcast as a series of plays on BBC Radio 3, featuring Peter Capaldi as Wenders, with Gina McKee, Saskia Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Ricky Tomlinson, dramatised by Neil Cargill.

In 2015, Wenders collaborated with artist/journalist and longtime friend Melinda Camber Porter on a documentary feature about his body of work, Wim Wenders – Visions on Film, when Porter died. The film remains incomplete. [18]

Wenders is a member of the advisory board of World Cinema Foundation. The project was founded by Martin Scorsese and aims to find and reconstruct world cinema films that have been neglected. As of 2015 he served as a Jury Member for the digital studio Filmaka, a platform for undiscovered filmmakers to show their work to industry professionals. [19]

Wim Wenders in 2008 Wim wenders.jpg
Wim Wenders in 2008

In 2011, Wenders was selected to stage the 2013 cycle of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival. [20] [21] The project fell through when he insisted on filming in 3-D, which the Wagner family found too costly and disruptive. [22]

In 2012, while promoting his 3-D dance film Pina , Wenders told the Documentary channel Blog that he had begun work on a new 3-D documentary about architecture. [23] He also said he would only work in 3-D from then on. [24] Wenders had admired the dance choreographer Pina Bausch since 1985, but only with the advent of digital 3-D cinema did he decide that he could sufficiently capture her work on screen. [25]

In June 2017, Wenders stage-directed Georges Bizet's opera Les Pêcheurs de perles , starring Olga Peretyatko and Francesco Demuro and conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper).

In a 2018 interview, Wenders said his favorite movie of all time was his film about Pope Francis, and that his entire career had been building up to it. His admiration for Francis is profound; he said he felt Francis is doing his best in a world full of calamities. He also said that, though raised Catholic, he had converted to Protestantism years earlier. [26]

In 2019 Wenders acted as executive producer for his former assistant director Luca Lucchesi's documentary A Black Jesus, which has similar themes to Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. The film explores the role of religion in communal identity and how this can create or dissolve differences in a small Sicilian town during the height of the refugee crisis. [27] Lucchesi noted that Wenders pushed the film to be more symbolic and philosophical, saying that Wenders wanted the film to have a "universal fairy-tale aspect" and to represent "Europe in a nutshell." [28]


Wenders has worked with photographic images of desolate landscapes and themes of memory, time, loss, nostalgia and movement. [2] [3] He began his long-running project "Pictures from the Surface of the Earth" in the early 1980s and pursued it for 20 years. The initial photographic series was titled "Written in the West" and was produced while Wenders criss-crossed the American West in preparation for his film Paris, Texas (1984). [5] It became the starting point for a nomadic journey across the globe, including Germany, Australia, Cuba, Israel and Japan, to take photographs capturing the essence of a moment, place or space. [29]

Legacy and honors

Wenders has received many awards, including the Golden Lion for The State of Things at the Venice Film Festival (1982); the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival for his movie Paris, Texas ; and Best Direction for Wings of Desire in the 1987 Bavarian Film Awards [30] and the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. He won the Bavarian Film Awards for Best Director for Faraway, So Close! in 1993. [30] In 2004, he received the Master of Cinema Award of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg. He was awarded the Leopard of Honour at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2005. In 2012, his dance film Pina was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature of the 84th Academy Awards. [31] Wenders also received a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay for the film. [32]

He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989, the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) in 1995 and the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium in 2005.

The Wim Wenders Foundation was established in Düsseldorf in 2012. The foundation provides a framework to bring together his cinematic, photographic, artistic and literary works in his native country and to make it permanently accessible to the public. [33]

Wenders was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015. [34] In 2016, Wenders received the Großer Kulturpreis of the Sparkassen Culture-Foundation Rhineland, one of the highest-endowed cultural honorings in Germany, with previous winners such as photographer legend Hilla Becher, sculptor Tony Cragg, musician Wolfgang Niedecken and director Sönke Wortmann. In 2017, Wenders received the Douglas Sirk Award at the Hamburg Film Festival. [35]

Personal life

Wenders lives and works in Berlin with his wife, Donata. [5] He has lived in Berlin since the mid-1970s. [36] He is an ecumenical Christian; as a teenager he wished to become a Catholic priest. [37] He supports German football club Borussia Dortmund. [38]

In 2009, Wenders signed a petition in support of director Roman Polanski, who had been detained while traveling to a film festival in relation to his 1977 sexual abuse charges, which the petition argued would undermine the tradition of film festivals as a place for works to be shown "freely and safely" and argued that arresting filmmakers traveling to neutral countries could open the door to "actions of which no-one can know the effects." [39] [40]



YearEnglish titleGerman titleNotes
1970 Summer in the City First full-length feature film (dedicated to The Kinks)
1972 The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (UK) or The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (USA) Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter Adaptation of a novel by Peter Handke
1973 The Scarlet Letter Der Scharlachrote BuchstabeAdapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
1974 Alice in the Cities Alice in den StädtenFirst part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1975 The Wrong Move Falsche BewegungSecond part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1976 Kings of the Road Im Lauf der ZeitThird part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1977 The American Friend Der Amerikanische FreundAdaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game
1980 Lightning Over Water Documentary co-directed by Nicholas Ray
1982 Hammett Based on a novel by Joe Gores
Room 666 "Chambre 666"Short documentary
1982"Reverse Angle"Short film documents Wenders's disputes with Coppola during Hammett
The State of Things Stand der Dinge
1984 Paris, Texas
Docu Drama Documentary
1985 Tokyo-Ga
1987 Wings of Desire Der Himmel über Berlin
1989 Notebook on Cities and Clothes Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und StädtenDocumentary
1991 Until the End of the World Bis ans Ende der Welt
1992"Arisha, the Bear and the Stone Ring""Arisha, der Bär und der steinerne Ring"
1993 Faraway, So Close! In weiter Ferne, so nah!Sequel to Wings of Desire
1994 Lisbon Story Partially a sequel to The State of Things
1995 A Trick of Light Die Gebrüder SkladanowskyAlso known as The Brothers Skladanowsky
Lumière et compagnie Anthology film made in collaboration between forty-one international film directors
1997 The End of Violence Am Ende der Gewalt
1998 Willie Nelson at the Teatro
1999 Buena Vista Social Club Documentary
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel
2002 Ode to Cologne: A Rock 'N' Roll Film Viel passiert – Der BAP-FilmDocumentary about the Cologne rock group BAP
"Twelve Miles to Trona"Segment from Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet
2003"Other Side of the Road"Short
2003 The Soul of a Man Documentary from the documentary series The Blues
2004 Land of Plenty based on a story by Scott Derrickson, with Michelle Williams and John Diehl
2005 Don't Come Knocking Script by Wenders and Sam Shepard
2007"Invisible Crimes"Documentary segment of Invisibles
"War in Peace"Segment of To Each His Own Cinema
2008 Palermo Shooting Dedicated to Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni
"Person to Person"Segment of 8
2010"If Buildings Could Talk"Short documentary about the Rolex Learning Center
"Il volo"Short documentary about immigrants [41]
2011 Pina Documentary filmed in 3D [42]
2012"Ver ou Não Ver"Segment of Mundo Invisível
2014"The Berlin Philharmonic"Documentary segment of Cathedrals of Culture [43]
The Salt of the Earth Das Salz der ErdeDocumentary
2015 Every Thing Will Be Fine
2016 The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez Die schönen Tage von AranjuezBased on the play for two persons by Peter Handke, filmed in 3D
2017 Submergence GrenzenlosAdaptation from war journalist JM Ledgard's novel
2018 Pope Francis: A Man of His Word Papst Franziskus – Ein Mann seines WortesDocumentary

Music videos and commercials

YearEnglish titleNotes
1990"Night and Day"Music video for U2
1992"Sax and Violins"Music video for Talking Heads
1993"Stay (Faraway, So Close!)"Music video for U2
1997"Every Time I Try"Music video for Spain [ citation needed ]
2000"The Ground Beneath Her Feet"Music video for U2
"Un matin partout dans le monde"Commercial for JCDecaux
"Warum werde ich nicht satt?"Music video for Die Toten Hosen
2001"Souljacker Part I"Music video for Eels
2002"Live in a Hiding Place"Music video for Idlewild [44]
2009"My Point of View"Commercial for Leica [45]
"Auflösen"Music video for Die Toten Hosen
2017-2018Jil Sander: Spring/Summer 2018Commercials for Jil Sander [46]
2020"Anagnorisis"Music video for Asaf Avidan

Other film work

1977[ citation needed ] The Left-Handed Woman producer
1979 Radio On associate producer
...als diesel geborenproducer [47]
1987 Iron Earth, Copper Sky
1992 The Absence co-producer
1995 Beyond the Clouds screenwriter
1997Go for Gold!producer [48] [49] [50] [51]
2002Half the Rent
2004"La torcedura"executive producer
Egoshooter producer
Música cubanaexecutive producer [52] [53]
2006 The House Is Burning
2008The Clone Returns Home
2009 The Open Road
2010 Au Revoir, Taipei
2012 Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle
2015Our Last Tangoexecutive producer [54]
2016 National Bird
2017"Little Hands"executive producer [55] [56]
2018It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story
Waiting for the Miracle to Come
2020A Black Jesusproducer [57]
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time executive producer
2021 United States vs. Reality Winner
Souad co-producer

Selected exhibitions










Wim Wenders in 2005 Wendersinterview.JPG
Wim Wenders in 2005











"The Space Between the Characters Can Carry the Load", Collection Ivo Wessel, Weserburg Museum for modern Art, Bremen, DE


"Instant Stories/Wim Wenders’ Polaroids", The Photographers' Gallery, London, from 20 October 2017 to 11 February 2018.

Installation art


(E)motion [61]


Two or Three Things I Know About Edward Hopper [62]


Presence [63]

Selected bibliography

See also

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