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RIP Sólveig Anspach, Icelandic-French Filmmaker Who Fought Breast Cancer

RIP Sólveig Anspach, Icelandic-French Filmmaker Who Fought Breast Cancer

I received news Sunday that Sólveig Anspach had died. She was a brilliant filmmaker, a dear colleague, a generous friend. She died of cancer, age 54.

Sólveig’s father was a Romanian Jew from Brooklyn who was demobbed to Paris after WWII; her mother was an Icelandic woman who’d come to Paris to study architecture. (What a fine, rich clash of cultures!) Sólveig grew up in France, attended l’IDHEC/La Femis, and made films, many films, glorious and gloriously diverse. There was a documentary on a death-row inmate in Texas; a comedy of manners set in the marijuana-dealing community of Reykjavik (and its sequel!); a biopic of Paris Commune heroine Luise Michel. Perhaps her most well-known film here, the 1999 “Haut les Coeurs!,” won a César for its lead Karin Viard. It’s a quietly harrowing, deeply moving film about a woman who while pregnant discovers that she has breast cancer. Sadly: it was autobiographical.

Sólveig’s disease was in remission for a long while, and when it recurred, Sólveig never stopped living, stopped working. I visited her on the set of Lulu Femme Nue in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie where she was not about to let debilitating chemotherapy stand in the way of cinema. Her courage was understated and astounding. The last time I saw her, in Paris in 2014, in her beloved Montreuil, eating and laughing around her table (her treasured daughter Clara there, too), she talked about dire, invasive surgical procedures the way most of us would speak of visits to the hair-cutter. And she continued throughout to be a fierce and loving mother and partner, an incisive and brave filmmaker, and to me, a caring friend. I will miss her deeply and forever.

Most of us, most of the time, we think that the glory of a life spent in filmmaking is that we get to make films, with the community and friendships that grow from that as a lovely collateral bonus. But on mornings like yesterday’s — and especially, thinking of Sólveig — I sometimes wonder if that community, those friendships, are the true reward (and the films just the fine machinery that enables and sustains those bonds among us).

A version of this story was originally posted by Rodman on his Facebook.

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