Isabel Coixet

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Isabel Coixet
File:Isabel Coixet Berlinale 2015.jpg
2015 Berlin International Film Festival
Born Isabel Coixet Castillo
(1960-04-09) 9 April 1960 (age 58)
Barcelona, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Alma mater University of Barcelona
Occupation Film director
Years active 1989–present
Known for My Life Without Me
The Secret Life of Words

Isabel Coixet Castillo (Catalan pronunciation: [izəˈβɛɫ kuˈʃɛt]; born 9 April 1960) is a Spanish film director. She is one of the most prolific film directors of contemporary Spain, having directed seven feature-length films since the beginning of her film career in 1988, in addition to documentary films, shorts and commercials. Her films follow a departure from traditional national cinema of Spain, and help to “untangle films from their national context, ... clearing the path for thinking about national film from different perspectives.”[1] The recurring themes of “emotions, feelings and existential conflict” coupled with her distinct visual style secure the “multifaceted (she directs, writes, produces and acts)” filmmaker's status as a “catalan auteur”.[1][2]

Early life

Coixet was born in Barcelona, Spain.

When Coixet was young, she spent time with her grandmother, who worked at a movie theatre in the neighborhood where she was born. She viewed a lot of movies, some of them multiple times, and decided she wanted to work in the industry.[3]

She has an M.A. in history from the University of Barcelona.


After graduate school, Coixet worked at the magazine, Fotogramas, where she interviewed a variety of national and international film personalities.

Coixet started her career in advertising, filming commercials before releasing her first feature film in 1988. She has worked as a journalist and as a director for several television advertisements.[4][5]

Feature films

Coixet made her first feature film, Demasiado viejo para morir joven, in 1989. The story about three aimless friends, Equis, Taxi, and Evax was filmed in Spanish. Coixel gained national recognition and a nomination for a Goya Award for Best Director.[1] Coixet is usually disparaging towards this film saying that she didn't have any real life experience when she made it.[6] It is not included on her roster of films on her official site.[7]

Her second film, Things I Never Told You (1996) was her first co-production that was both filmed in English and featured international actors such as Lili Taylor, Andrew McCarthy, Leslie Mann and Seymour Cassel. It was nominated for a Goya Award for Best Original Screenplay. It follows the story of Ann, a suicidal employee in a photo shop, and displays the somber, universal themes that would become a benchmark of her work to come.

Her third feature film, A los que aman (1998) is a Spanish-language costume drama starring Monica Bellucci.

Coixet went on to achieve international critical acclaim with her next feature film, My Life Without Me (2003) based on the short story collection, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, by Nanci Kincaid. The film was produced by Pedro Almodóvar's production company, El Deseo and it was filmed in Canada with an international cast that included Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Deborah Harry, Scott Speedman and Leonor Watling. Sarah Kaufman from the Washington Post praised the film saying it was "Insistent and unforgettable".[8]

The film was screened at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival and Coixet was nominated for a Goya Award for Best Director and Goya Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the latter. Sarah Polley went on to win the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, among others.[9]

Coixet and Polley reunited on The Secret Life of Words (2005), receiving an equally positive reception. Variety said "[the film] tackles its big theme — silence as a defense against tragedy — with delicacy, sympathy and originality".[10] The film was screened at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival and co-stars Tim Robbins, Javier Cámara and Julie Christie. It won five Goya Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Coixet's first three co-productions marked her trend toward making films in English that grappled with “the tension between communication and silence”, “secrecy and illness”, “the austere comfort of mundanity”, and “privileged the universal essence of the individual”.[11]

Coixet directed the segment Bastille in the omnibus film Paris, je t'aime (2006) as well as Cartas a Nora for the documentary Invisibles (2007).[12]

Coixet tackled Elegy next, an adaptation of Philip Roth's The Dying Animal starring Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson. The Hollywood Reporter called Cruz "outstanding" while praised Kingsley's "fierce, impeccable craft".[13]

Her next film was the Japan-set thriller Map of the Sounds of Tokyo starring Rinko Kikuchi and Sergi López. The film was part of in the main competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.

In 2013, Coixet returned to film in Spanish after a 15-year absence with the film, Ayer no termina nunca, starring Candela Peña and Javier Cámara. The film examines the effect of a tragedy on a former couple amid a recession. It went on to win four awards at the Málaga Film Festival.

Also in 2013, Coixet directed the British-set thriller Another Me, starring Sophie Turner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Rhys Ifans.

In 2014, Learning to Drive, starring Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival,[14] where it was voted first-runner up for the Audience Award.[15]

Coixet's 2015 film Nobody Wants the Night, starring Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi and Gabriel Byrne, is about two women from two different worlds struggling to survive in an inhospitable climate while fighting for the affection of explorer Robert Peary.[16] Binoche's role is early 20th century Arctic explorer Josephine Peary.[17] It is the opening film of the 2015 Berlinale film festival.[17]

Other work


Between her first and second films Coixet directed commercials for British Telecommunications, Ford, Danone, BMW, IKEA, Evax, Renault, Peugeot, Winston, Kronenbourg, Pepsi, Kellogg Company, MCI, Helene Curtis, Procter Gamble, Philip Morris and the ONCE foundation, amongst others.

Shanghai World Expo 2010

Coixet, Bigas Luna and Martín Patino prepared an exhibit each for the Spanish Pavilion at the 2010 Expo.[18]

Artistic vision

Coixet's work as a director is striking for being, as The New York Times describes her, "unclassifiable."[19] Depending on the film, she shoots in English or Spanish, and subjects are diverse. Coixet’s trademark is her filmmaking technique, which was derived from her background in advertising, where visuals, color, and composition are carefully constructed.[19] She works as the camera operator on all of her films.

Personal life

As of 2015, Coixet is based in New York City, New York.[17]


Feature films


Her 2011 documentary on Baltasar Garzón Escuchando al juez Garzón won her a Goya award for Best Documentary.

  • Viaje al corazón de la tortura (2003)
  • ¡Hay motivo! (2004) (segment "La insoportable levedad del carrito de la compra")[4]
  • Invisibles (2007) (segment "Cartas a Nora")[4]
  • La mujer, cosa de hombres (2009) (part of TVE's 50 años de documentary series)
  • Aral. El mar perdido (2010)
  • Escuchando al juez Garzón (2011)
  • Marea blanca (2012)
  • Parler de Rose, prisonnière de Hissène Habré (Talking about Rose) (2015)



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pavlovic, Tatjana (2009). 100 Years of Spanish Cinema. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. pp. 181–225. ISBN 978-1-4051-8420-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Smith, Paul Julian (January 2004). "Waiting for Pedro". Sight and Sound. 14 (1): 9–9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Brooks, Brian (16 December 2006). "Indiewire Interview: Isabel Coixet, Director of "The Secret Life of Words"". Indiewire. Retrieved 6 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 [1] Barcelona Writing, Interview with Isabel Coixet
  5. [2] Distinguished alumni University of Barcelona
  11. Sklar, Robert (Fall 2008). "Elegy". Cineaste. 33 (4): 50–52.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Rolfe, Pamela (4 February 2015). "Berlin: 'Nobody Wants the Night' Director Isabel Coixet on the Lack of Female Directors (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "El 'cesto español' en Shanghai" El País (Spanish)
  19. 19.0 19.1 Minder, Raphael (28 September 2011). "Isabel Coixet, an 'Unclassifiable' Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links