Damian Pettigrew

Damian (also Damien) Pettigrew (March 10, 1963)[1] is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, author, and multimedia artist, best known for his cinematic portraits of Balthus, Federico Fellini, and Jean Giraud.

Damian Pettigrew
Damian (Damien) Pettigrew

Québec, Canada
Occupationfilmmaker, screenwriter, author
Years active1982–present
Height188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
AwardsUNESCO Grand Prize - Best Documentary
1997 Balthus Through the Looking Glass
Lausanne IFAF Prize - Best Photography
1997 Balthus Through the Looking Glass
Prix Arte Nomination - Best Documentary
2003 Fellini: I'm a Born Liar
Marseille IFF Award - Coup de Coeur
2003 Fellini: I'm a Born Liar
Banff World Television Festival Rockie Award - Best Arts Documentary
2003 Fellini: I'm a Born Liar

Released theatrically in fifteen countries, his film Fellini: I'm a Born Liar won the Rockie Award for Best Documentary at the Banff World Television Festival and was nominated for the Prix Arte at the European Film Awards, Europe's equivalent of the Oscars.[2]


Pettigrew's mother was a child psychologist who trained with Anna Freud at the Hampstead Child Therapy Course in 1947. His father, Dr. J.F. Pettigrew, was the first Canadian surgeon to diagnose the heart condition known as aortic coarctation in 1953.[3]

After reading English, French and Italian Literature at the universities of Bishop's, Oxford, and Glasgow (where he discovered the work of Scottish film director Bill Douglas), Pettigrew studied cinema at IDHEC in Paris. At the Cinémathèque Française, he met Brion Gysin and Steve Lacy and began frequenting their artists' circle. If his work is influenced by Gysin's celebrated cut-up technique, the profound and lasting effect on his life was his friendship with Samuel Beckett.

In 1983, Pettigrew launched a remake of Film (film) (1965) starring Klaus Kinski, with Beckett as consultant and Raoul Coutard as cameraman.[4] Kinski’s scheduling, however, proved intractable. Beckett next proposed Jack Lemmon for the role but the project was abandoned when Lemmon explained he was incapable of competing with Buster Keaton (who first played the roles of O and E in 1965). With Beckett and Pettigrew in 1984, the actor David Warrilow initiated Take 2, a tentative sequel to Film, but the project remained unfinished at the playwright's death in 1989.[5] In 1990, Pettigrew settled in Paris to devote himself to filmmaking.

In 1999, he co-founded Portrait et Compagnie with French producer Olivier Gal. He spends a short part of each year on Lake Memphremagog in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.[6]


A recognized authority on Federico Fellini, his portrait of the maestro, Fellini: I'm a Born Liar, won the prestigious Rockie Award at the 2002 Banff World Television Festival, receiving excellent reviews in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek International, Le Monde, Corriere della Sera, l'Unità, The Herald, The Telegraph (London), and newspapers throughout Europe, Brazil, Australia and Japan. Nominated for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards, Europe's equivalent of the Oscars, the film established his reputation as a director of "extraordinarily controlled" feature documentaries.[7] The interview transcripts were published in 2003 as I'm a Born Liar: A Fellini Lexicon with 125 illustrations and a preface by Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich. The Italian director pays particular homage to Tullio Pinelli, his co-scriptwriter on such classics as I Vitelloni, La Strada, and La Dolce Vita.[8]

Other films include portraits of Eugène Ionesco, Italo Calvino, and Jean Giraud. His Balthus Through the Looking Glass, a study of the controversial French painter, was filmed in Super 16 over a 12-month period in Switzerland, Italy, France and the Moors of England. Esteemed by Guy Davenport,[9] it was honored in a cycle of film classics by Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, and Jean Vigo at the Museum Ludwig (Cologne, Germany) in September 2007.[10]

In 2010, Pettigrew directed MetaMoebius, a cinematic essay on French graphic designer Moebius aka Jean Giraud for the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain and CinéCinéma Classic. His documentary, The Irene Hilda Story, based on the European cabaret tradition during the Second World War as experienced by French stars Irene and Bernard Hilda, Micheline Presle and Henri Salvador, was broadcast in France and Germany by ARTE France that same year.[11]

A mid-career retrospective of his work in film was held at the Centre des Arts d'Enghien-les-Bains from 5 October 2011 to 28 March 2012.[12] His informal discussion with Ingmar Bergman (conducted in the fall of 2003 at Fårö Island) on the Swedish director's affinities with Samuel Beckett's work was published in L’Âge d’or du cinéma européen in 2011.[13]

In 2012, he completed Inside Italo (Lo specchio di Calvino), a feature-length study of Italo Calvino for ARTE France in co-production with Italy’s Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali[14] and the National Film Board of Canada.[15] Starring Italian actor Neri Marcorè and distinguished literary critic Pietro Citati, the docu-fiction uses in-depth conversations filmed at the writer's Rome penthouse a year before his death in 1985 and rare footage from RAI, BBC, and INA (Institut national de l'audiovisuel) television archives. ARTE[16] and SKY ARTE (Italy)[17] broadcast the 52-minute version on 19 December 2012 and 14 October 2013, respectively.[18]

Pettigrew is currently directing the first feature-length documentary on Carolyn Carlson, the France-based American dancer and choreographer. Begun in January 2012 and continuing into 2021, the film focuses on the creation of several major works by Carlson including Synchronicity (2012), Dialogue with Rothko (2013) and Woman in a Room with Diana Vishneva, principal dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre, Black Over Red (2017) with Marie-Agnès Gillot, star dancer at the Paris Opéra Ballet, as well as her latest choreography titled The Tree (2021).[19]

In developmentEdit

In development are two feature films: Darkness Visible starring Tim Roth and Eriq Ebouaney,[20] and Beckett, based on the director's experience working with Samuel Beckett.

Selected filmographyEdit


  • Fellini ou l'amour de la vie (1993)
  • Mr Gir et Mike S. Blueberry (1999)
  • L'histoire d'Irène / The Irene Hilda Story (2009)
  • Fellini : 8½ en six mémos / Fellini's in 6 Memos (2009)
  • Ionesco : Autour du Roi se meurt avec Michel Bouquet (2009)
  • MetaMoebius : Giraud-Moebius, métamorphoses (2010)
  • The Rome Trilogy:
  • Carolyn Carlson, Dare to Risk (2022)
  • Fellini Politicus (2021)


  • Ionesco : Conversations autour d'une caméra (Ionesco interviews)
  • Fellini: I'm a Born Liar (Fellini interviews)
  • Inside Italo (Calvino interviews)
  • Allain Leprest
  • Jean-Jacques Annaud (Annaud interviews)
  • Carolyn Carlson


Video artEdit

  • 40RO (2003)
  • 4 Faces 5 Voices (2018)
  • Marlène (2021)[21]

Selected publicationsEdit

This bibliography is focused on the published interviews that were filmed, produced and directed by Pettigrew in collaboration with the following artists:
  • Fellini, Federico & Pettigrew, Damian:
    • Fellini, je suis un grand menteur. Paris: L'Arche, 1994 (ISBN 2851813404).
    • Fellini, eu sou um grande mentiroso. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 1995.
    • Fellini, Ich bin ein großer Lügner. Munich: Verlag der Autoren, 1995 (ISBN 3886611566).
    • 'Fellini: Creation and the Artist' in Projections 4. London: Faber and Faber, 1995 (ISBN 0-571-17363-2).
    • 'Fellini et l'entretien avec Damian Pettigrew' in Cahiers Jungiens de Psychanalyse. (Paris, Issue 104, 2002.)
    • Fellini, sono un gran bugiardo. Prefazione di Tullio Kezich. Roma: Elleu, 2003 (ISBN 8874761228).
    • I'm a Born Liar: A Fellini Lexicon. Preface by Tullio Kezich. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003 (ISBN 0-8109-4617-3).
    • Federico Fellini. Sou um grande mentiroso. Uma conversa com Damian Pettigrew. Lisboa: Fim de Século, 2008.
  • Calvino, Italo & Pettigrew, Damien:

Essays on cinemaEdit

  • « Ascenseur (les objets felliniens) » in Fellinicittà (ed. J-M. Méjean). Paris: Editions de la Transparence, 2009 (ISBN 978-2-35700-008-7).
  • « Trois films, trois sourires : quelques regards sur Bergman » in L’Age d’or du cinéma Européen 1950-1970 (ed. Denitza Bantcheva). Chatou: Editions du Revif, 2011.(ISBN 978-2-35051-046-0).

Interviews onlineEdit

Awards and festivalsEdit

Information for this section provided by IMDb[23] and the official site of Fellini: I’m a Born Liar.[24]

UNESCO Grand Prize - Best Documentary

  • 1997 for Balthus Through the Looking Glass

Best Photography Prize - Lausanne International Festival of Art Films

  • 1997 for Balthus Through the Looking Glass

Official Selection - 8th Marseille International Film Festival (Vue sur les docs)

  • 1997 for Balthus Through the Looking Glass

Official Selection - 56th Edinburgh International Film Festival

  • 2002 for Fellini: I'm a Born Liar (selected in over 40 international festivals including Edinburgh, Moscou, Amsterdam, Toronto and Montréal)

Nomination Prix Arte for Best Documentary - European Film Awards

  • 2002 for Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

Coup de Cœur Award - 13th Marseille International Film Festival (Vue sur les docs)

  • 2002 for Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

Rockie Award for Best Arts Documentary - Banff World Television Festival

  • 2002 for Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

Homage to Fellini 1993-2003 - Cannes International Film Festival, Cinémathèque Française and Rimini Fellini Foundation

  • 2003 for Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

Official Selection - 1st Cairo Panorama of European Film

  • 2004 for Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

Official Selection - Toronto Jewish Film Festival (selected in 10 international festivals)

  • 2010 for The Irene Hilda Story

Official Selection - 14th Blue Metropolis

  • 2012 for Inside Italo

Italo Calvino - 90th Anniversary 1923-2013 - Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia

  • 2013 for Inside Italo

Member, The Society of Multimedia Authors of France (SCAM), The Society of Authors of France (SGDL), and ONE Campaign

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Cited in filmmaker’s official CV online Retrieved 29 July 2021.
  2. ^ French distributor MK2 International Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  3. ^ Interview with Pettigrew and Caroline Caldier, Radio France, 4 May 2003.
  4. ^ Cited in No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider (ed. Maurice Harmon, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 442-443
  5. ^ Cited in Pettigrew's correspondence with Beckett and David Warrilow archived at Emory University in Atlanta, home to the Beckett Correspondence Project under the direction of Lois Overbeck and Martha Fehsenfeld.
  6. ^ Radio France interview with Pettigrew and Caroline Caldier, accessed 12 August 2021.
  7. ^ David Denby, The New Yorker, April 21, 2003. Based on the maestro's last interviews filmed by Pettigrew in 1991–1992 (Fellini died in 1993), the film was selected in over 40 international festivals including Edinburgh, Moscow, Amsterdam, Cannes and Montréal, distributed theatrically in 15 countries, and sold to television worldwide (source: MK2 International).
  8. ^ For example, Fellini declares that "Tullio Pinelli wrote, for all intents and purposes, the script of La Strada". Fellini and Pettigrew, I’m a Born Liar: A Fellini Lexicon, 89
  9. ^ Davenport was an early shaping influence on the film and contributed valuable insight in a series of letters to Pettigrew between 1995 and 1996. Their correspondence is archived at L'Arche éditeur (Paris) under the direction of Rudolf Rach. See also Davenport's A Balthus Notebook (New York: Ecco Press, 1989) for a seminal essay on the French artist's work.
  10. ^ In Balthus or Time Suspended: Paintings and Drawings (1932–1960). Cologne: Museum Ludwig, 2007.
  11. ^ Cited in director's filmography at IRS-RSI. Retrieved 21 Aug 2021.
  12. ^ Cited in Pettigrew-CV at IRS-RSI Le documentaire à l'honneur au Centre des Arts d'Enghien-les-Bains. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  13. ^ Pettigrew, "Notes prises durant un déjeuner avec Bergman" in L’Âge d’or du cinéma européen, 75
  14. ^ "Italo Calvino di Damian Pettigrew si è visto assegnare 210 mila euro". Italian co-production investment cited in Direzione Generale per il Cinema - Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali at dGCINEWS. Retrieved 24 October 2018
  15. ^ NFB Catalogue reference Dans la peau d'Italo Calvino. Consulted 12 August 2021
  16. ^ Dans la peau d'Italo Calvino at Arte France Archived 2013-02-01 at the Wayback Machine Dossier in French.
  17. ^ Ricordando Italo Calvino, tra sogno e realtà at Sky Italia
  18. ^ In her Le Monde review, Hélène Delye described the film as "fascinating, original, inventive, and very successful" while Jean-Baptiste Gournay of Le Nouvel Observateur observed that "the multi-focus approach is what was needed to grasp so complex an author". Consulted 12 August 2021
  19. ^ Cited in Portrait & Cie News at IRS-RSI. Consulted 12 August 2021
  20. ^ Cited in L'Express. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  21. ^ Cited in Pettigrew-CV Consulted 12 Aug 21
  22. ^ Cited in Kerstin Pilz, Mapping Complexity: Literature and Science in the Works of Italo Calvino (Troubador: Leicester, 2005), 196
  23. ^ Awards, Internet Movie Database. Consulted 12 Aug 2021
  24. ^ Fellini: I’m a Born Liar at IRS-RSI. Consulted 12 May 2021

External linksEdit