Agnes Varda is fondly remembered as one of the most influential voices of the French New Wave. Her endlessly enigmatic filmography is made up of cinematic experiences that can only be described as magical and most of them remain important works to this day. A prominent member of the New Wave’s Left Bank, her films show the power and the beauty of the cinematic medium with incredible ease.
In addition to her feature films, Varda directed several spectacular documentaries about various subjects. At the start of her career, Varda worked as a photographer which is why the aesthetics of documentary filmmaking played a vital part in her features as well – especially in gems like La Pointe Courte and Cléo from 5 to 7 among others.
Over the course of her life, Varda made several important contributions to the traditions of documentary filmmaking through works such as The Gleaners and I which is considered by many to be a groundbreaking masterpiece. Varda’s sensibilities and her background in documentary filmmaking perfectly explained her presence within the Left Bank.
One of the finest documentary shorts directed by Varda was her essential 1968 work Black Panthers. Only around half an hour long, Black Panthers is a brilliant exploration of the revolutionary sentiments within the Black community during the late ’60s. The film touches on the struggles they faced and how those very struggles are still relevant today.
Varda made Black Panthers during her trip to California in 1968, accompanying her husband Jacques Demy who was working on the 1969 drama Model Shop in Hollywood at the time. While Varda was investigating the fight against racism in the US, there were major political movements taking place in France which are now collectively referred to as ‘May 68’.
Black Panthers revolves around the party’s revolutionary co-founder Huey P. Newton and the protests that followed his arrest during the summer of 1968. The brilliance of Varda’s work also lies in the fact that she chose to amplify the voices of women within the movement as well, especially those who were questioning the beauty standards set by white women.
Watch Agnes Varda’s Black Panthers here.