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 78)
Düsseldorf, Germany
Occupation(s)Filmmaker, 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 Full list
Website www.wim-wenders.com

Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (German: [ˈvɪmˈvɛndɐs] ; 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 numerous prizes from the Cannes, Venice and Berlin Film Festivals. He has also received a BAFTA Award as well as nominations for three Academy Awards and a Grammy Award.


Wenders made his feature film debut with Summer in the City (1970). He earned critical acclaim for directing Road Movie trilogy which consisted of the films Alice in the Cities (1974), The Wrong Move (1975), and Kings of the Road (1976). Wenders won the BAFTA Award for Best Direction and the Palme d'Or for the narrative drama Paris, Texas (1984) as well as the Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award for Wings of Desire (1987). His other notable films include The American Friend (1977), Faraway, So Close! (1993), and Perfect Days (2023).

He has received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Buena Vista Social Club (1999), Pina (2011) and The Salt of the Earth (2014). He received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for Willie Nelson at the Teatro (1998). He is also known for directing the documentaries Tokyo-Ga (1985), The Soul of a Man (2003), and Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018).

Wenders has been the president of the European Film Academy in Berlin since 1996 and won the Honorary Golden Bear in 2015. Alongside filmmaking, he is an active photographer, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes. [2] [3] He is considered an auteur director. [4]

Early life and education

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] He 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 he 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 University of Television and Film Munich (HFF). [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.


1970–1976: Film debut and early work

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] Wenders made his directorial film debut with Summer in the City (1970). The film was produced as his graduation project at the University of Television and Film Munich which he attended from 1967 to 1970. It was shot in 16 mm black and white by long-time Wenders collaborator Robby Müller, the movie exhibited many of Wenders' later trademark themes of aimless searching, running from invisible demons, and persistent wandering toward an indeterminate goal. In this case the journey is that of protagonist Hans (Zischler) after he is released from prison. Searching through seedy West German streets and bars, he finally winds up visiting an old friend in Berlin.

He then directed The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty which was titled The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick in the United States. The film was adapted from Peter Handke's 1970 short novel. He then directed the period drama The Scarlet Letter (1973) adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel of the same name. From 1974 to 1976 Wender directed the Road Movie trilogy. The first film in the trilogy was Alice in the Cities (1974) which was shot in 16mm. The next two films of the trilogy include The Wrong Move (1975), and Kings of the Road (1976), the later of which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.

1977–1987: Breakthrough and acclaim

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

In 1977 Wender gained prominence for directing the neo-noir The American Friend starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz. The film is adapted from the Patricia Highsmith 1974 novel Ripley's Game . J. Hoberman of The New York Times praised the film comparing it to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver writing, "Like “Taxi Driver,” “The American Friend” was a new sort of movie-movie — sleekly brooding, voluptuously alienated and saturated with cinephilia." [17]

Wenders earned critical acclaim for his film road drama Paris, Texas (1984) starring Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Dean Stockwell. The film premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d'Or. Critic Roger Ebert praised the film writing, [it's] a movie with the kind of passion and willingness to experiment that was more common fifteen years ago than it is now. It has more links with films like Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy , than with the slick arcade games that are the box-office winners of the 1980s. It is true, deep, and brilliant". [18]

He then directed the romance fantasy Wings of Desire (1987) starring Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk. It premiered at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival where Wenders won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director. These films 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 . It was submitted by West Germany for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a bid supported by its distribution company. It was not nominated; the academy seldom recognized West German cinema. [19] The film was one of the most acclaimed films of the year with many critics adding it on their top 10 lists. The film also spanned two sequels.

1991–2010: Career fluctuations

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

In he directed the science fiction adventure drama Until the End of the World (1991) starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Max Von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau. The film has been released in several editions, ranging in length from 158 to 287 minutes, with the longer versions receiving mixed reviews. In 1993 he directed Faraway, So Close! a sequel to Wings of Desire. Actors Otto Sander, Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk reprised their roles as angels who have become human. The film also stars Nastassja Kinski, Willem Dafoe and Heinz Rühmann, in his last film role. The film received critical acclaim premiering at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival where it earned the Granf Prix. The next year he directed Lisbon Story (1994) which screened Un Certain Regard at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. In 1995 he directed both A Trick of Light and the anthology film Lumière and Company .

In 1997 he directed the American drama film The End of Violence starring Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, and Gabriel Byrne. The film received negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office after its debut at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Like many other of Wenders' American movies, the film was shot in multiple locations, for instance the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park and the Santa Monica Pier. Wenders has directed several highly acclaimed documentaries including Willie Nelson at the Teatro a documentary about the recording sessions of Teatro (1998). The following year he also directed the Buena Vista Social Club (1999) about the music of Cuba. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature losing to One Day in September .

2011–present: Resurgence with documentaries

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

He directed the documentary about Cuban musicians, and The Soul of a Man (2003), on American blues. 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 ] 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.

He also directed a documentary-style film on the Skladanowsky brothers, known in English as A Trick of the Light. [20] 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. In 2011, Wenders was selected to stage the 2013 cycle of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival. [21] [22] The project fell through when he insisted on filming in 3-D, which the Wagner family found too costly and disruptive. [23] 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. [24] He also said he would only work in 3-D from then on. [25] 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. [26]

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. [27] 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. [28]

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. [29]

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. [30] 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." [31]


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. [32]

Personal life

Wenders lives and works in Berlin with his wife, Donata. [5] He has lived in Berlin since the mid-1970s. [33] He is an ecumenical Christian; as a teenager he wished to become a Catholic priest. [34] He supports German football club Borussia Dortmund. [35]

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." [36] [37]

From 1979 to 1981, Wenders was married to the American actress and singer-songwriter Ronee Blakely.



YearEnglish titleNotes
1970 Summer in the City First full-length feature film
1972 The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (UK) /
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (USA)
1973 The Scarlet Letter
1974 Alice in the Cities First part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1975 The Wrong Move Second part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1976 Kings of the Road Third part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1977 The American Friend
1982 Hammett
The State of Things
1984 Paris, Texas
1987 Wings of Desire
1991 Until the End of the World
1992Arisha, the Bear, and the Stone Ring
1993 Faraway, So Close! Sequel to Wings of Desire
1994 Lisbon Story Partially a sequel to The State of Things
1995 A Trick of Light Also known as The Brothers Skladanowsky
Lumière et compagnie Anthology film
1997 The End of Violence
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel
2002Twelve Miles to TronaSegment from Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet
2003 Other Side of the Road Short
2003 The Soul of a Man
2004 Land of Plenty
2005 Don't Come Knocking Script by Wenders and Sam Shepard
2007War in PeaceSegment of To Each His Own Cinema
2008 Palermo Shooting Dedicated to Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni
Person to PersonSegment of 8
2012Ver ou Não VerSegment of Mundo Invisível
2015 Every Thing Will Be Fine
2016 The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez
2017 Submergence
2023 Perfect Days


YearEnglish titleNotes
1980 Lightning Over Water Documentary co-directed by Nicholas Ray
1982 Room 666 Short documentary
Reverse Angle Short documentary; Wenders / Coppola dispute during Hammett
1984 Docu Drama Documentary
1985 Tokyo-Ga
1989 Notebook on Cities and Clothes Documentary
1998 Willie Nelson at the Teatro Documentary
1999 Buena Vista Social Club Documentary
2002Ode to Cologne: A Rock 'N' Roll FilmDocumentary about the rock group BAP
2003 The Soul of a Man Documentary from The Blues
2007Invisible CrimesDocumentary segment of Invisibles
2010If Buildings Could TalkShort documentary about the Rolex Learning Center
Il voloShort documentary about immigrants [38]
2011 Pina Documentary filmed in 3D [39]
2014The Berlin PhilharmonicDocumentary segment of Cathedrals of Culture [40]
The Salt of the Earth Documentary
2018 Pope Francis: A Man of His Word Documentary
2023 Anselm Documentary filmed in 3D

Music videos

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
"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 [41]
2009"Auflösen"Music video for Die Toten Hosen
2020"Anagnorisis"Music video for Asaf Avidan


YearEnglish titleNotes
2000"Un matin partout dans le monde"Commercial for JCDecaux
2009"My Point of View"Commercial for Leica [42]
2017–2018Jil Sander: Spring/Summer 2018Commercials for Jil Sander [43]

Other film work

1977[ citation needed ] The Left-Handed Woman producer
1979 Radio On associate producer
...als diesel geborenproducer [44]
1987 Iron Earth, Copper Sky
1992 The Absence co-producer
1995 Beyond the Clouds screenwriter
1997Go for Gold!producer [45] [46] [47] [48]
2002Half the Rent
2004"La torcedura"executive producer
Egoshooter producer
Música cubanaexecutive producer [49] [50]
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 [51]
2016 National Bird
2017"Little Hands"executive producer [52] [53]
2018It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story
Waiting for the Miracle to Come
2020A Black Jesusproducer [54]
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time executive producer
2021 United States vs. Reality Winner
Souad co-producer
2023 An Endless Sunday producer [55]

Legacy and honors

YearAssociationCategoryNominated workResultRef.
1999 Academy Award Best Documentary Feature Buena Vista Social Club Nominated
2011 Pina Nominated
2014 The Salt of the Earth Nominated
1985 BAFTA Award Best Direction Paris, Texas Won
1988 Best Film Not in the English Language Wings of Desire Nominated
1999Buena Visa Social ClubNominated
2001 Grammy Awards Best Long Form Music Video Willie Nelson at the Teatro Nominated

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 [56] and the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. He won the Bavarian Film Awards for Best Director for Faraway, So Close! in 1993. [56] 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. [57] Wenders also received a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay for the film. [58]

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. [59] Wenders was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015. [60] 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. [61]











Wim Wenders in 2005 Wendersinterview.JPG
Wim Wenders in 2005












Installation art





See also

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Further reading