Euzhan Palcy is credited for being the first black woman in Hollywood to direct and produce a film. She was also the first black director to win a Cesar Award, which is the highest French film award.
Palcy was born in Martinique. She grew up studying the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and Fritz Lang. In 1975, she left for Paris to earn a master’s degree in French Literature. Palcy was very passionate about creating an accurate story depicting the reality of Apartheid, and she risked her life traveling undercover to South Africa.
She became the first black female director to produce, and the only black filmmaker who succeeded in making a feature against apartheid in the U.S. during the 27 years of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration. However, during this time, the film enraged the South African oppressive regime and was banned in South Africa for a while.
In 1998, she directed and produced Ruby Bridges, the story of the black girl from New Orleans who was the first to integrate public schools. During this time, President Bill Clinton and others introduced the film to American audiences.
Palcy has won more than 17 international awards, including the Silver Lion and Best Actress awards at the Venice Film Festival.