Agnès Varda’s Impressions of America


This month on the AFS calendar is Documentary & Beyond: Agnès Varda, the latest in our Essential Cinema series. In it, we’re highlighting four non-narrative titles — including two shorts combined into a single screening — from the “Grandmother of the French New Wave.” While the series aims to showcase some of Varda’s documentary work (and the lines she blurs within this genre), there’s another through-line in the first three pieces.

In 1967, Varda moved to Los Angeles with her then-husband Jacques Demy after, as J. Hoberman of the New York Times puts it, “[Demy] parlayed the international success of THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG into a Hollywood contract.” During those years in California, Varda made the biographical short UNCLE YANCO, the documentary short BLACK PANTHERS, and the feature LIONS LOVE (AND OTHER LIES).

Aside from the subjects of each piece, Lead Programmer of AFS Cinema Lars Nilsen says that the films are also collectively about Varda’s impressions of America. As you prepare to see the U.S. through Varda’s eyes, we wanted to share some stills that we think help set the scene. As your prepare to see the U.S. through Varda’s eyes, we wanted to share some photos that we think help set the scene. We also encourage attendees of Documentary & Beyond: Agnès Varda to think about the contrast between this California triptych and the final film we’re playing in the series, THE GLEANERS AND I (2000), which was shot in various parts of her native France far away from the sun-drenched beaches of California.




“Her observations in California are too esoteric to be at risk of cliché, thus producing a wholly unique and personal cinematic vision of some of the most photographed places in the United States.” — Nonfics, Landon Palmer





“Varda is as fascinated by Los Angeles as her husband, as both of their L.A. features offer extended sequences of driving around with the camera pointed out the windshield.” — Pop Matters, Michael Barrett




“When, a decade later, Varda moved from Paris to Los Angeles for the second time … she encountered not only the famous boardwalk and its roller skates, but also homelessness, crime, unemployment, and unwanted furniture left on sidewalks (20 years before she would make THE GLEANERS AND I, Varda gleaned from the streets of Venice Beach a couch and other objects to furnish the apartment she had rented).” — LA Review of Books, Jennifer Cazenave

Documentary & Beyond: Agnès Varda


  • Jan. 17 at 7:30 PM
  • Jan. 21 at 5:30 PM


  • Jan. 24 at 7:30 PM
  • Jan. 28 at 4:15 PM


  • Jan. 31 at 7:30 PM
  • Feb. 4 at 4 PM
Images 1, 4, 5, and 8 are from UNCLE YANCO.
Images 2, 6, and 9 are from BLACK PANTHERS.
Images 3, 7, and 10 are from LIONS LOVE (AND OTHER LIES).