(Berkeley, CA) June 3, 2015— BAM/PFA Senior Film Curator Susan Oxtoby has been honored with a pair of prestigious honors from the French and Georgian governments for her contributions to advancing a deeper appreciation of the history of filmmaking in those two countries.
On May 26, Oxtoby received the Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. The Consul General of France, Pauline Carmona, conferred the insignia in a ceremony at the Residence of France in San Francisco. The Order of Arts and Letters was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. American recipients of the award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Gund, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman. In her remarks, Carmona thanked Oxtoby for “the exemplary work you have accomplished in presenting French, Francophone, and European cinema. You are one of the finest ambassadors of the dialogue between the United States and France, and you count among those who have achieved the most to further mutual understanding of the cultures of both countries.”
The daughter of American academics, Oxtoby was born in Montreal, Canada, and spent her childhood in Watertown, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, before settling in Toronto for thirty-five years. Her parents always made travel a priority. Between summer vacations and sabbatical years, the family traveled to more than thirty countries by the time she was a teenager. Oxtoby majored in English and cinema studies at the University of Toronto, and completed a second degree in film production at Ryerson University, in Toronto. She worked as an independent filmmaker, film distributor, and film programmer, culminating in her role as the director of programming at Cinematheque Ontario and as the programmer for Wavelengths, the platform for avant-garde film at the Toronto International Film Festival. She became Senior Film Curator at BAM/PFA in 2005, where she has been responsible for presenting numerous French cinema programs in Berkeley, including Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960, a collaboration with Film Forum, New York; retrospectives of filmmakers such as Jacques Demy, Julien Duvivier, Claire Denis, Jean Eustache, Jean-Luc Godard, Nino Kirtadze, Marcel Pagnol, Jacques Tati, and Agnès Varda; career surveys of actors such as Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jeanne Moreau, and Jean-Louis Trintignant; and the wonderfully successful presentation ofVoices of Light/Passion of Joan of Arc at the Paramount Theatre, Oakland, copresented with SF Silent Film Festival, in 2010.
On June 2, Oxtoby was presented with the Medal of Honor from the Government of Georgia at a special ceremony hosted by the Georgian Embassy in Washington DC. She received the award for her work organizing the major touring film series Discovering Georgian Cinema. A collaboration between BAM/PFA and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the series is the largest presentation of Georgian film ever mounted in North America. Featuring some sixty programs, Discovering Georgian Cinema was presented at both BAM/PFA and MoMA, and traveled to the National Gallery of Art, in Washington DC and TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto. Georgian Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze presented medals to Oxtoby and to Margaret Parsons, head of the film department at the National Gallery of Art, and posthumously to MoMA curator Jytte Jensen, with whom Oxtoby co-curated the retrospective.
Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national, and global discourse on art, film, and ideas. Founded in 1963, BAM/PFA is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue with its screenings of some four hundred films and presentations of up to twenty exhibitions annually. BAM/PFA’s mission is to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.
The institution’s collection of over nineteen thousand works of art dates from 3000 BCE to the present day and includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and Conceptual art. BAM/PFA’s collection also includes over 17,500 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, impressive holdings of Soviet cinema, West Coast avant-garde film, seminal video art, as well as hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film—many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.