Chantal Akerman film catalogue acquired by BFI Distribution

The collection includes the groundbreaking Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, winner of the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time Poll in 2022.

9 April 2024

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

BFI Distribution is proud to announce the acquisition of the Chantal Akerman film collection from the Fondation Chantal Akerman in partnership with the Royal Film Archive of Belgium (CINEMATEK). The collection of around 20 fiction and documentary features, short films, and other rarely seen material represents almost 50 years of the director’s filmmaking, spanning 1967 to 2015. The highlight is the experimental, groundbreaking Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), made when Akerman was just 24 years old, which was the winner of the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time Poll in 2022, the first time that a female filmmaker took the number one spot since the poll’s inception in 1952.

Other films acquired include Je tu il elle (1974), News from Home (1976), Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978), La Captive (2000) and No Home Movie (2015). Almost all of the feature films have been restored in either 4K or 2K during recent years, with further restorations currently underway.

BFI Distribution will re-release Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in cinemas in the UK and Ireland in 2025 as the centrepiece in a package of Akerman films. The film’s release will be part of a wider BFI project in 2025 to celebrate Akerman, including a retrospective season at BFI Southbank, BFI Blu-ray releases and titles on BFI Player. 

“Despite her colossal reputation, Chantal Akerman’s work has previously had little distribution in the UK and Ireland,” says Laura Dos Santos, BFI Acquisitions Manager. “We wanted to correct this incongruity and so it is with both excitement and emotion that we will bring her immense body of work to British and Irish audiences next year.”

“It is a great honour that Chantal Akerman’s work is joining the wonderful BFI catalogue,” says Céline Brouwez, co-ordinator of the Fondation Chantal Akerman at CINEMATEK. “We are eager to see the films and our restorations distributed and promoted in the UK and Ireland by the BFI, whose work and editorial line we much admire.”

About Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman at work
© Collections CINEMATEK - © Fondation Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman (1950 to 2015) was born in Brussels. At 15, she discovered Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965), which inspired her to take up filmmaking. She joined Brussels film school (INSAS) in 1967, but immediately left, rejecting the school’s rigid framework. The following year she made her first and radical short film, Saute ma ville. Akerman moved to New York in the early 1970s, where she discovered the experimental cinema of Jonas Mekas and Michael Snow, which had a profound influence on the films she made there, La Chambre and Hotel Monterey. Returning to Belgium, she directed Je tu il elle and then raised the funds to produce Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Presented at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 1975, it brought her international recognition and remains a major cinematic experiment in the history of cinema, studied and admired for decades. 

An indefatigable artist, Akerman exploded narrative and geographical boundaries to work between genres, tackling in turn fiction, documentary, musical comedy and literary adaptation. She is considered one of the most important and influential European directors of her generation, due to her modernity, her visionary treatment of images, time and space, and the reflections that run through her films on identity, belonging, memory, feminism, gender and sexuality. She remains an invaluable influence on filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant, Tsai Ming-Liang, Todd Haynes, Kelly Reichardt, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Céline Sciamma and Alice Diop.