Raoul Peck (born 1953) is an Oscar-nominated Haitian filmmaker, of both documentary and feature films, and a political activist. Briefly, from March 1996 to September 1997, he was Haiti's Minister of Culture. His film I Am Not Your Negro about the life of James Baldwin was nominated for an Oscar in January 2017.
Early years and education
Peck was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At the age of eight, Peck and his family (he has two younger brothers) fled the Duvalier dictatorship and joined his father in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His father, Hebert B. Peck, an agronomist, worked for the United Nations FAO and Unesco and had taken a job there as professor of agriculture along with many Haitian professionals invited by the government to fill positions recently vacated by the departing Belgians. His mother, Giselle, would serve as aide and secretary to mayors of Kinshasa for many years. The family resided in DRC for the next 24 years.
Peck attended schools in the DRC (Kinshasa), in the United States (Brooklyn), and in France (Orléans), where he earned a baccalaureate, before studying industrial engineering and economics at Berlin's Humboldt University. He spent a year as a New York City taxi driver and worked (1980–85) as a journalist and photographer before attending and receiving a film degree (1988) from the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB) in West Berlin.
In 1986 Peck created the film production company Velvet Film in Germany, which then produced or co-produced all his documentaries, feature films and TV dramas.
Peck initially developed short experimental works and socio-political documentaries, before moving on to feature films. His feature L’Homme sur les quais (1993; The Man by the Shore) was the first Haitian film to be released in theatres in the United States. It was also selected for competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
Peck served as Minister of Culture in the Haitian government of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth (1996–97), ultimately resigning his post along with the PM. He detailed his experiences in this position in a book, Monsieur le Ministre… jusqu'au bout de la patience.
Peck has achieved his highest degree of international public attention for Lumumba, his 2000 feature film about Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and the period around the independence of the Belgian Congo in June 1960.
A book of screenplays and images from four of Peck's major features and documentary films, called Stolen Images, was published in February 2012 by Seven Stories Press.
Today, he divides his time between Voorhees Township, Camden County, New Jersey, USA, Paris, France, and Port-à-Piment, Haiti.
He is president of La Fémis, the French state film school, since January 10, 2010.
In 2012, he was named as a member of the Jury for the Main Competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
He won the Best Documentary prize at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival in 2013 for Fatal Assistance.
The Belgian segment of the shoot for his upcoming film Le Jeune Karl Marx (The Young Karl Marx) resumed in October 2015. The film is about the friendship between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the Communist Manifesto, during their youth.
Awards and accolades
- Human Rights Watch's Nestor Almendros Prize (1994)
- Sony Special Prize, Locarno Festival (for Chère Catherine, 1997)
- Human Rights Watch's Lifetime Achievement Award (2001)
- Procirep Prize, Festival du Réel (for Lumumba—Death of a Prophet, 2002)
- Best Documentary, Montreal Film Festival (for Lumumba—Death of a Prophet, 2002)
- Jury member, Berlin International Film Festival (2002)
- Human Rights Watch's Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award (2003)
- Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival Best Documentary Prize for Fatal Assistance (2013)
- Oscar nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category for I Am Not Your Negro, 89th Academy Awards
- De Cuba Traigo Un Cantar (short; 1982)
- Exzerpt (short; 1983)
- Leugt (short; 1983)
- The Minister of the Interior is on our Side (short; 1984)
- Merry Christmas Deutschland (short; 1984)
- Haitian Corner (1987–88)
- Lumumba: La mort du prophète (Lumumba: Death of a Prophet, 1992)
- L’Homme sur les quais (The Man by the Shore, 1993)
- Haiti - Le silence des chiens (Haiti - Silence of the Dogs, 1994)
- Desounen: Dialogue with Death (1994)
- Chère Catherine (1997)
- Corps plongés (It's Not About Love, 1998)
- Lumumba (2000)
- Profit & Nothing But! Or Impolite Thoughts on the Class Struggle (2001)
- Sometimes in April (2005)
- L’Affaire Villemin (2006), TV series
- Moloch Tropical (2009)
- Assistance mortelle (documentary, 2013)
- Murder in Pacot (2014)
- I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
- The Young Karl Marx (2017)
- "Revered Haitian Filmmaker Raoul Peck Is Currently Filming 'The Young Karl Marx'". Shadow and Act. Retrieved 2015-12-11.