Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (German pronunciation: vɪm vɛndəɐs; born 14 August 1945) is a German filmmaker, playwright, author, photographer, and a major figure in New German Cinema. In a career spanning over four decades, he has received some of the highest international film awards, including the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival for his drama Paris, Texas; the Golden Lion for the drama The State of Things at the Venice Film Festival (1982); and Best Director for the romantic fantasy film Wings of Desire at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. He has been nominated for the Academy Awards three times, for his documentaries Buena Vista Social Club, about the music of Cuba, Pina, about the contemporary dance choreographer Pina Bausch, and The Salt of the Earth, about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Since 1996, Wenders has been the president of the European Film Academy in Berlin.
Alongside filmmaking, Wenders works with the medium of photography, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes.
Wenders was born in Düsseldorf into a traditional Catholic family. His father, Heinrich Wenders, was a surgeon. The use of the Dutch name "Wim", a shortened version of the baptismal name "Wilhelm/Willem", reflected his mother's Dutch provenance, but the Dutch version was rejected by the civil registration authorities in 1945 as "un-German". As a boy, he took unaccompanied trips to Amsterdam to visit the Rijksmuseum. He graduated from high school in Oberhausen in the Ruhr area. He then studied medicine (1963-64) and philosophy (1964-65) in Freiburg and Düsseldorf. However, he dropped out of university studies and moved to Paris in October 1966 to become a painter. Wenders failed his entry test at France's national film school IDHEC (now La Fémis), and instead became an engraver in the studio of Johnny Friedlander, in Montparnasse. During this time, Wenders became fascinated with cinema, and saw up to five movies a day at the local movie theater.
Set on making his obsession also his life's work, Wenders returned to Germany in 1967 to work in the Düsseldorf office of United Artists. That fall, he entered the "Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München" (University of Television and Film Munich). Between 1967 and 1970 while at the "HFF", Wenders also worked as a film critic for FilmKritik, then the Munich daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Twen magazine, and Der Spiegel.
Wenders completed several short films before graduating from the Hochschule with a feature-length 16mm black and white film, Summer in the City.
Wenders began his career during the New German Cinema era of the late 1960s, making his feature directorial debut with Summer in the City (1970). Much of the distinctive cinematography in his movies is the result of a highly productive long-term collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller. Some of his more successful and critically acclaimed movies, Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire, for example, have been the result of fruitful collaborations with avant-garde authors Peter Handke and Sam Shepard. Handke's novel, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick was adapted for Wenders' second feature film, The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty. Handke co-wrote the script for Wings of Desire and Until the End of the World, both featuring Solveig Dommartin.
Wenders has directed several highly acclaimed documentaries, most notably Buena Vista Social Club (1999), about Cuban musicians, and The Soul of a Man (2003), on American blues. He has also directed a documentary style film on the Skladanowsky brothers, known in English as A Trick of the Light. The Skladanowsky brothers were inventing 'moving pictures' when several others like the Lumiere brothers and Friese-Greene were doing the same.
He has also directed many music videos for groups such as U2 and Talking Heads, including "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and "Sax and Violins". His television commercials include a UK advertisement for Carling Premier Canadian beer.
Wenders' book, Emotion Pictures, a collection of diary essays written while a film student, was adapted and broadcast as a series of plays on BBC Radio 3, featuring Peter Capaldi as Wenders, with Gina McKee, Saskia Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Ricky Tomlinson, dramatised by Neil Cargill.
Wenders was collaborating with artist/journalist and longtime friend Melinda Camber Porter on a documentary feature about his body of work, Wim Wenders - Visions on Film, when Porter died - the film remains incomplete.
Wenders is a member of the advisory board of World Cinema Foundation. The project was founded by Martin Scorsese and aimed at finding and reconstructing world cinema films that have been long neglected. He serves as a Jury Member for the digital studio Filmaka, a platform for undiscovered filmmakers to show their work to industry professionals.
In 2011 he was selected to stage the 2013 cycle of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival, a reflection of his capacity to produce imaginative tributes to great works of art. The project fell through when he insisted on filming in 3-D, which the Wagner family found too costly and disruptive.
While promoting his 3-D dance film, Pina, Wenders told the Documentary channel Blog in December 2011 that he has already begun work on a new 3-D documentary, this one about architecture. He also has said that he will only be working in the 3-D film format from now on. Wenders admired the dance choreographer Pina Bausch since 1985, but only with the advent of digital 3-D cinema did he decide that he could sufficiently capture her work on screen.
Alongside filmmaking, Wim Wenders works with the medium of photography and his poignant images of desolate landscapes engage themes including memory, time, loss, nostalgia and movement. Wenders' long-running artistic project, Pictures from the Surface of the Earth, began in the early 1980s and was subsequently pursued by the artist for the next twenty years. The initial photographic series in this body of work was titled Written in the West which Wenders produced when criss-crossing through the American West in preparation for his film Paris, Texas (1984). This became the starting point for the artist's nomadic journey across the globe, travelling through countries including Germany, Australia, Cuba, Israel and Japan to take photographs which capture the essence of a moment, place or space.
Wim Wenders: America, Villa e collezione la Panza, Varese, IT
Wim Wenders: 4REAL & TRUE2. Wim Wenders. Landscapes and Photographs, Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf, DE
Wim Wenders: Places Strange & Quiet, GL Strand, Copenhagen, DK
Wim Wenders: Urban Solitude, Palazzo Incontro, Rome, IT
Wim Wenders. Appunti di Viaggio. Armenia Giappone Germani. Villa Pignatelli, Naples, IT
Wim Wenders: Photographs, Fundació Sorigué, Leida, ES
Places Strange and Quiet, Ostlicht. Galerie Für Fotografie, Vienna, AT
Places, strange and quiet, Harald Falckenberg Exhibition Space, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, DE
Wim Wenders: Pictures from the Surface of the Earth,Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, RU
Places, strange and quiet, Haunch of Venison, London, UK
Places, strange and quiet, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, BR
Wim Wenders: Immagini dal pianeta terra, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, Italy
Journey to Onomichi - Photos by Wim and Donata Wenders, Omotesando Hills, Tokyo, Japan
Pictures from the Surface of the Earth, images from touring exhibition, Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia
Dark Places, curated by Joshua Decter, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California
The Forest: Politics, Poetics, and Practice, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Through the Lens, group exhibition, C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland
Pictures from the Surface of the Earth, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Århus C, Denmark
Pictures from the Surface of the Earth, Australia and Japan, James Cohan Gallery, New York
Between The Lines, group exhibition, James Cohan Gallery, New York
Images of Time and Place: Contemporary Views of Landscape, group exhibition, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York Wim Wenders, Galleria Marabini, Bologna, Italy
Through the Lens: Eight Photographers, group exhibition, C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland.
Wim Wenders, James Cohan Gallery, New York
Wim Wenders, Galerie Judin Belot, Zurich, Switzerland
Pictures from the Surface of the Earth, touring exhibition: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2001), Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2002), Haunch of Venison, London (2003); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2003); City Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand; Millennium
Art Museum, Beijing, China; Shanghai Museum of Art, Shanghai, China; Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China (2004)
Buena Vista Social Club, Rose Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, California
Wim Wenders: Landscape and Memory, Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica
Wim Wenders: Photos, in conjunction with the publication, Wim Wenders: Photos, Munich Goethe Institute (1996), Goethe Institutes worldwide
Wim Wenders: Landscape and Memory, Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica, California
Wim Wenders Photo Exhibition, in conjunction with the publication, Once, Munich: Schirmer/ Mosel (2001), touring exhibition: Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (1993); Villa delle Rose, Bologna (1994); FNAC, Paris (1994); Parco, Tokyo (1994); FNAC, Berlin (1995); Villa Rufolo, Ravello (1995)
Wim Wenders Photographs, touring exhibition: Galerie F. C Gundlach, Hamburg (1989); Galerie Marie-Louise Wirth, Zürich (1990); Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film, Munich (1991); Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles (1991); Shibuya Seibu Dept. Store, Tokyo (1992); Kiyomizu
Temple, Kyoto (1992); Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne (1992); Amerika Haus, Berlin (1992); Venice Biennale (1993); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (1993); Sala Parpallo Palau Dels Scala, Valencia (1994); San Telmo Museum, San Sebastian (1994)
Written in the West, in conjunction with the publication, Written in the West, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel (1987), touring exhibition: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1986); Encontros de Fotografia, Coimbra (1987); Palazzo della Triennale di Milano (1988); Film Society of Miami (1988); Goethe Institut, Stockholm (1988); Goethe Institut, Copenhagen (1988); Saint-Yrieix-La-Perche (1990); Städtische Galerie Schwarzes Kloster, Freiburg (Breisgau) (1992)
Legacy and honors:
Wenders has already received many awards, including the Golden Lion for The State of Things at the Venice Film Festival (1982); the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival for his movie Paris, Texas; and Best Direction for Wings of Desire in the 1987 Bavarian Film Awards and the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. In 1993 he won the Bavarian Film Awards for Best Director for Faraway, So Close!. In 2004, he received the Master of Cinema Award of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg. He was awarded the Leopard of Honour at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2005. In 2012, his dance film Pina was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature of the 84th Academy Awards.
He has been awarded honorary doctorates at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium in 2005.
In 2012 the Wim Wenders Foundation was created in Düsseldorf creating a framework to bring together the cinematic, photographic, artistic and literary lifework of Wim Wenders in his native country and to make it permanently accessible to the general public worldwide.
He was presented with the Honorary Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015.
Summer in the City
First full-length feature film (Dedicated to The Kinks)
The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (UK) or The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (USA)
Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter
Adaptation of a novel by Peter Handke
The Scarlet Letter
Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe
Adapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Alice in the Cities
Alice in den Städten
First part of Wenders' Road Movie Trilogy
The Wrong Move
Second part of Wenders' Road Movie Trilogy, with Nastassja Kinski
Kings of the Road
Im Lauf der Zeit
Third part of Wenders' Road Movie Trilogy
The American Friend
Der Amerikanische Freund
Adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game
Lightning Over Water
Documentary about the last days of Nicholas Ray
Fictional story about Dashiell Hammett, American writer; based on a novel by Joe Gores
Short documentary interviews directors on the future of cinema, including Steven Spielberg, Jean-Luc Godard, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Filmed at Cannes
Short film documents Wenders' disputes with Coppola during Hammett
The State of Things
Stand der Dinge
Documentary about Japanese film director Yasujirō Ozu
Wings of Desire
Der Himmel über Berlin
Written with Peter Handke. A guardian angel is tempted to prefer human experience over the outsider's immortality.
Notebook on Cities and Clothes
Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und Städten
Documentary about Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto.
Red Hot + Blue
Music video for "Night and Day" performed by U2
Until the End of the World
Bis ans Ende der Welt
Arisha, the Bear and the Stone Ring
Arisha, der Bär und der steinerne Ring
Faraway, So Close!
In weiter Ferne, so nah!
Sequel to Wings of Desire
Partially a sequel to The State of Things
Beyond the Clouds
Jenseits der Wolken
(with Michelangelo Antonioni)
A Trick of Light
Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky
Also known as The Brothers Skladanowsky
Lumière et compagnie
The End of Violence
Willie Nelson at the Teatro
Buena Vista Social Club
Documentary about Cuban musicians; made with Ry Cooder
The Million Dollar Hotel
Un matin partout dans le monde
Souljacker Part 1
Music Video for "Souljacker Pt 1" by Eels
Ode to Cologne: A Rock 'N' Roll Film
Viel passiert - Der BAP-Film
Documentary about the Cologne rock group BAP
Ten Minutes Older
Contributed segment "Twelve Miles to Trona"
Other Side of the Road
The Soul of a Man
Documentary about Blues musicians
Land of Plenty
Don't Come Knocking
Documentary (segment "Invisible Crimes")
To Each His Own Cinema
(segment "War in Peace")
(segment "Person to Person")
If Buildings Could Talk
Premiered Out of Competition at the Berlin Film Festival.
segment "Ver ou Não Ver"
The Salt of the Earth
Every Thing Will Be Fine
Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez
Wenders, Wim (1984), Paris, Texas, Nördlingen: Greno, ISBN 978-3-921568-11-8 ,
Wenders, Wim (1986), Emotion pictures: Essays und Filmkritiken, 1968-1984, Frankfurt: Verlag der Autoren, ISBN 978-3-88661-078-5 ,
Wenders, Wim (1989), Emotion pictures: reflections on cinema, London: Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-15271-1 ,
Shepard, Sam; Wenders, Wim (1991), Paris, Texas: Screenplay, New York: Ecco Press, ISBN 978-0-88001-266-9 ,
Wenders, Wim; Hofmann, Michael (1992), The logic of images: essays and conversations, London: Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-16517-9 ,
Wenders, Wim; Handke, Peter (1998), Der Himmel über Berlin: Ein Filmbuch von Wim Wenders und Peter Handke (in German), Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, ISBN 978-3-518-02406-5 ,
Wenders, Wim; Wenders, Donata (2000), The heart is a sleeping Beauty: the Million Dollar Hotel - a film book, New York: teNeues, ISBN 978-3-8238-5468-5 ,
Wenders, Wim; Hofmann, Michael (2000), My time with Antonioni: the diary of an extraordinary experience, London: Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-20076-4 ,
Wenders, Wim (2001), Written in the West, New York: teNeues, ISBN 978-3-8238-5469-2 ,
Wenders, Wim (2001), Once: pictures and stories, New York: D.A.P./Schirmer/Mosel, ISBN 978-1-891024-25-2 ,
Wenders, Wim; Hofmann, Michael (2001), On film: essays and conversations, London: Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-20718-3 ,
Lindbergh, Peter; Wenders, Wim (2002), Peter Lindbergh: stories, Santa Fe: Arena Editions, ISBN 978-1-892041-64-7 ,
Steinhilber, Berthold; Wenders, Wim (2003), Ghost towns of the American West, New York: Harry N. Abrams, ISBN 978-0-8109-4508-1 ,
Wenders, Wim; Tawada, Yoko (2007), Where Europe begins, New York: New Directions Publishers, ISBN 978-0-8112-1702-6 ,
Wenders, Wim; Zournazi, Mary (2013), Inventing Peace: A Dialogue on Perception, London: I.B.Tauris, ISBN 978-1-780-76693-5
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license