last updated February 2008
A son of a surgeon, Wim Wenders was born on the 14th of August, 1945, in Düsseldorf, Germany, at 8:10 am.
The name "Wim" is rather of Dutch origin and had occurred on Wim's mother's side of the family. The name had been decided upon by his parents, but was refused by the authorities on grounds that it was not "a proper German name". The most similar-sounding name was Wilhelm and so his birth certificate and his passport state his full name as Ernst Wilhelm Wenders, Ernst being his godfather's name.
After he graduated from the "Gymnasium" (high school) in Oberhausen, an industrial city in the Ruhr district, Wim began his studies in medicine (1963-64) and philosophy (1964-65) in Freiburg and Düsseldorf. However, he interrupted his academic education and decided to become a painter. He moved to Paris in October of 1966, where he failed his entry test at the Art Academy. Instead he worked as an engraver in the atelier of the American artist Johnny Friedlander in Montparnasse. During that time he also became a regular visitor of the Cinemathèque Francaise, saw up to 5 movies a day and more than a thousand films altogether and got hooked on cinema.
Wim returned to Germany in 1967, worked briefly in the Düsseldorf office of United Artists and that autumn entered the "Hochschule für Fernsehen and Film" (Graduate School of Film and Television), which had just been founded in Munich. (Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the rejects, and was so pissed off that he immediately started to make movies to show them...)
Between 1967 and 1970, parallel to his 3 years at the HFF, Wim also worked as a film critic and contributed to the film review "FilmKritik", to the Munich daily newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung.", to the magazine TWEN and DER SPIEGEL.
During the same period he finished several short films and in the hot summer of 1968 was arrested during a demonstration protesting against the assault on Rudi Dutschke. He was given a six and a half month suspended sentence for resisting arrest.
Wim Wenders graduated from the Hochschule with a feature-length film "Summer in the City", shot on 16mm and black and white for the budget of the half-hour 35mm film he was expected to deliver. But he really began his professional career in 1971 with his next film, "The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty Kick", based on the novel of the same name by his friend Peter Handke.
In 1971, together with fourteen other German filmmakers, he started a production and distribution cooperative called "Filmverlag der Autoren". That company became the nucleus of the "New German Cinema". In 1974, he also founded Wim Wenders Produktion (which was founded in Munich and relocated to Berlin in 1978). Filmverlag produced and distributed, after "The Goalie's anxiety" Wim's next features, "Scarlet Letter", "Alice in the Cities", "Wrong Move" and "Kings of the Road".
In 1976, he started "Road Movies Filmproduktion Inc" in Berlin, which produced over the years not only Wenders' films, but was involved in more than a hundred productions and coproductions up to 2003. For a number years in the early 80s, Wim also had a production company in New York together with Chris Sievernich, Gray City Inc.
While producing and directing through these various companies, Wim Wenders would become one of the major figures to emerge from the New German Cinema.
In 1977, he finished "The American Friend", his first international co-production which brought him to the attention of Francis Ford Coppola. In 1978, upon invitation of Coppola, he went to the United States to shoot "Hammett" for Zoetrope Productions, which occupied him, among other works, until 1982. During the forced interruptions in the shooting of the film, Wenders made "Lightning over Water" (together with his friend, director Nicholas Ray) and then "The State of Things", which won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival of 1982, the first in a series of prestigious international acknowledgments.
In the summer of 1982, after his difficult experiences in the United States, he directed his first (and only) play, "Über die Dörfer" by Peter Handke for the "Salzburger Festpiele".
Moving from Los Angeles to New York that year, Wim had started working on a script together with Sam Shepard whom he had first met in 1978, when he had wanted to cast him as Hammett. (The studio had refused Wenders' choice at the time.) Wim had written a first script based on Shepard's "Motel Chronicles", but the two then decided to start from scratch. The film was then shot in the summer of 1983 and was eventually titled "Paris, Texas". It won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. With that, Wim had become one of the cult directors of the'80s, while his films were becoming ever more successful with the public.
In 1984 he also became a member of the "Akademie der Künste" in Berlin.
In 1987, besides the release of his film "Der Himmel über Berlin", ("Wings of desire" in English) winner of the prize for Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, he also published his first photo book, "Written in the West", which reflected his fascination with the American West. This collection of photographs would be followed by many other books, collections of essays and reflections on filmmaking. He also published a number of books that accompanied his films. ("Kings of the Road" was the first of those, followed by "Paris, Texas", "Tokyo-Ga", "Wings of Desire" and others)
In 1989 Wim Wenders received an honorary doctor title from the Sorbonne University in Paris.
In 1991 he completed his long-time science-fiction project, "Until the End of the World". Unhappy with the abbreviated version he was forced to release, he continued editing after the release of the film and produced a 5-hour director's cut that was going to be released only 12 years later. In the same year he received the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Award in Bielefeld.
After "Tokyo-Ga", a film on his favorite director, the great Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, he made another documentary film a couple of years later on fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. "Notebook on Cities and Clothes", his fourth cinematographic diary, was followed by a collaboration with Michelangelo Antonioni "Beyond the Clouds". Other projects in the early and mid-nineties included "Far Away, So Close", the follow up to "Wings of Desire", as well as "Lisbon Story" and "A Trick of the Light"
From 1991 to 1996 he was the appointed Chairman of the European Film Academy and was subsequently elected as the Academy's President, a function he still fills out today. Between 1993 and 1999 he has been teaching at the HFF in Munich, the film school he attended himself. Since 2003, he is teaching as a professor at the Hamburg Academy of Arts, the HfbK.
In 1995 he received another honorary doctorat (in divinity) this time from the theological faculty of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.
Since then he has filmed his movies mainly in the US and in English. Most notably "The End of Violence", the award winning music documentary "Buena Vista Social Club" and "The Million Dollar Hotel" which won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2000. He collaborated on "Ten Minutes Older" together with fellow directors Jim Jarmush, Spike Lee, Chen Kaige, Werner Herzog, Aki Kaurismaki and Victor Erice. He shot another fewature-length music documentary in Germany, "Ode to Cologne" with his friends from BAP, a Cologne based Rock'n Roll band who sing in their local language that needs subtitling in the rest of Germany.
Between 2001 and 2003 he also worked on "Soul of a Man", his contribution to the 7-part BLUES series that was executive-produced and initiated by Martin Scorsese. And in 2002 he wrote and directed'Twelve Miles to Trona', a segment for the Nicholas McClintok project'Ten Minutes Older'.
Wim's photo exhibition after "Written in the West", entitled "Pictures From the Surface of the Earth", went from the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and is touring since then through museums in Asia, Australia and Europe.
In 2004 Wim released "Land of Plenty" in Europe, a film dealing with poverty and paranoia in America. That movie concluded his "LA trilogy", together with "End of Violence" and "The Million Dollar Hotel".
In the summer of 2004 Wim shot "Don't Come Knocking", his second collaboration with Sam Shepard, a road movie/post-Western/family story/tragicomedy. The two of them had been working on the script together for 3 years. The film starred Shepard in the lead.
In 2006 Wim spent time in the Congo; contributing to a project for'Medicos Sin Fronteras' the Spanish chapter of'Doctors without Borders'. The resulting segment'Invisibles', premiered at the 2007 Berlinale. After writing, producing and directing the short'War in Peace', his contribution to a collective of 33 shorts directed by different directors about their feeling about Cinema, Wim returned to his hometown Duesseldorf and later to Palermo, to film his new feature film project'The Palermo Shooting'. This film marks his return as a director to European soil after he had exclusively worked in the Americas since the mid-nineties.
Wim Wenders currently lives in Los Angeles and Berlin, together with his wife, photographer Donata Wenders. He is member of the order "Pour le Mérite".
1967 Schauplätze - Author, Director, Camera, Editing and Production
1967 Same Player Shoots Again - Author, Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Producer
1968 Silver City- Author, Director, Camera, Editor and Producer
1968 Polizeifilm - Author, Director, Editor
1969 Alabama: 2000 Light Years From Home - Author, Director, Sound, Editor
1969 3 Amerikanische LP's - Director, Camera, Editor, Sound
1974 Aus der Familie der Panzerechsen / Die Insel - Director
1982 Reverse Angle - Author, Director, Comment
1982 Chambre 666
1992 Arisha, the Bear and Stone Ring - Author, Director, Producer
2002 Ten Minutes Older: Twelve Miles to Trona - Author, Director
2007 Los Invisibles: Invisible Crimes - Author, Director
2007 War in Peace - Author, Director, Producer
Feature and Documentary Films
1970 Summer in the City (dedicated to the Kinks) - Author, Director, Producer
1971 Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter - Author, Director, Producer
The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty Kick
L'Angoisse du Gardien de But
1972 Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe - Co-Author, Director, Producer
La Lettre Ecarlate
1973 Alice in den Städten - Author, Director, Producer
Alice in the Cities
Alice dans les Villes
1975 Falsche Bewegung - Director, Producer
1976 Im Laufe der Zeit - Author, Director, Producer
Kings of the Road
Au Fil du Temps
1977 Der Amerikanische Freund - Author, Director, Producer
The American Friend
1980 Lightning over Water - Author, Co-Director, Producer
1982 Hammett - Director
1982 Der Stand der Dinge - Co-Author, Director, Producer
The State of Things
L'Etat des Choses
1984 Paris, Texas - Director, Producer
1985 Tokyo-Ga - Author, Director, Producer
1987 Der Himmel über Berlin - Author, Director, Producer
Wings of Desire
Les Ailes du Désir
1989 Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und Städten - Author, Director,
Notebook on Cities and Clothes
Carnet de Notes sur Vêtements et Villes
1991 Bis ans Ende der Welt - Co-Author, Director, Producer
Until the End of the World
Jusqu'au Bout du Monde
1993 In weiter Ferne, so nah! - Co-Author, Director, Producer
Faraway, so Close!
Si Loin, Si Proche!
1994 Lisbon Story - Author, Director, Producer
1995 Par delà les Nuages (with M. Antonioni) - Co-Author, Co-Director, Co-Producer
Beyond the Clouds
Jenseits der Wolken
1996 Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky (with students of HFF Munich), Co-Producer
A Trick of the Light
Les "Lumière" de Berlin
1997 The End of Violence - Co-Author, Director
Am Ende der Gewalt
1998 The Buena Vista Social Club - Author, Director, Producer
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel - Director, Producer
2002 Ode to Cologne - Author, Director
Viel Passiert (Der BAP-Film)
2003 The Blues Series: The Soul of a Man - Author, Director
2004 Land of Plenty - Co-Author, Director
2005 Don't Come Knocking - Co-Author, Director
Awards and selected Festivals
1972 The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty Kick
● FIPRESCI Award, Venice Film Festival
1975 Wrong Move
● 6 German Film Awards among them Gold (Director)
1976 Kings of the Road
● Best Film, Chicago Film Festival
● In Competition at Cannes Film Festival
● FIPRESCI Award, Cannes Film Festival
1978 The American Friend
● German Film Award/ Gold (Director) and Silver (Production)
● In Competition at Cannes Film Festival
1981 Nick's Film - Lightning over Water
● German Film Award /Silver (Production)
● Cannes Film Festival 1980, out of Competition
● In Competition at Cannes Film Festival
1982 State of Things
● Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival
● Fipresci Award, Venice Film Festival
● German Film Prize/Silver (Production)
1984/85 Paris, Texas
● Golden Palm, Cannes Film Festival
● British Academy Award (Best Director)
● Prize of the French Film Critics
● German film Prize/Silver (Production)
and other awards
● "Outstanding film of the year", London Film Festival
● Official Selection Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard
1987/89 Wings of Desire
● Award for Best Director, Cannes Film Festival
● European Film Award (Director)
● German Film Award /Gold (Director)
● Bavarian Film Award (Director)
● Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Film & Photography
● New York Film Critics Circle (Photography)
● Independent Spirit Award
● Guild Award in Silver (Best German Film)
1991 ● Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Award, Bielefeld
1992 Until the End of the World
● Guild Award in Gold (Best German Film)
1993 Faraway, so Close!
● Grand Jury Award, Cannes Film Festival
● Bavarian Film Award (Best Director)
1993 Lisbon Story
● Official selection at Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard
1995 A Trick of the Light - First Act
● German Short Film Award/ Silver
1997 The End of Violence
● German Film Award/ Gold (Director)
● In Competition at Cannes Film Festival
1999 Buena Vista Social Club
- Audience Award, Edinburgh International Film Festival
- Best Documentary Award, European Film Awards
- NBR Award for Best Documentary, National Board of Review
- Golden Space Needle for Best Documentary, Seattle International Film Festival
- Award for Best Documentary, New York Film Critics
- Award for Best Documentary, Los Angeles Film Critics
- Academy Award Nomination
and other awards
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel
- Silver Bear, Berlin Film Festival
2003 The Soul of a Man
- Emmy Award
- Audience Award for Best Documentary at São Paulo Film Festival
- Official Selection Cannes Film Festival
2004 Land of Plenty
- Official Selection Venice Film Festival
- UNESCO - Award
2005 Don't Come Knocking
- Competition at Cannes Film Festival
- European Film Award for Best Camera