Documentarian Agnes Varda is not only the oldest person ever nominated for an Academy Award, she’s the first woman to receive an honorary Oscar and a competitive nomination in the same season. And while she’s quite delighted by the recognition, the 89-year-old notes that she is “not proud.”
She is so not proud that she mentions it several times during a brief telephone interview from her home in France last month after learning that “Faces Places” was nominated for best documentary feature.
“There is nothing to be proud of, but happy,” Varda said. “Happy because we make films to love. We make films so that you love the film.”
She sees herself as more modest than proud.
“I love my own work and I’ve done it for so many years, so I didn’t do it for honor or money,” she said. “My films never made money.”
Varda shares the Oscar nod with her co-director, JR, and her daughter, Rosalie Varda, who produced “Faces Places.”
The film was inspired by the elder Varda’s connection with JR, a 34-year-old street artist known for installing massive portraits on real-world landscapes: a boy peering over a border wall in Mexico, a pair of giant eyes on a pair of water tanks. The film follows the French New Wave pioneer and journeyman photographer as they travel through France, meeting people, capturing their images and talking about art.
Varda said they spent more than a year and a half making the film, diligently shooting one week a month.
“I could not shoot more than one week a month,” she said. “Because it leaves me tired, you know. I’m old!”
“Faces Places” was released in U.S. theaters in October.
She did not attend Monday’s luncheon for nominees, but JR made sure she was in the class photo: he brought a cardboard cutout of Varda holding a cat that he displayed on the red carpet and on the risers with the rest of the assembled nominees.
In November, Varda danced with Angelina Jolie at the film academy’s Governors Awards, where Varda received an honorary Academy Award recognizing her decades of filmmaking.
“Everyone was there in the room, so I was very welcomed and I felt very good,” she recalled of the untelevised ceremony.
The honor came with an invitation to the 90th Academy Awards on March 4, so Varda was already planning to attend with her daughter, even before they were nominated.
“But I won’t change my hair, my double-color hair,” Varda said, though no one has suggested she should. “We are happy. Nothing to be proud of.”