Variety’s Peter Debruge Honored By France’s Ministry of Culture

On the eve of King Charles III’s coronation, Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge was awarded the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his long devotion to supporting French cinema. The French government bestows the honor, which means Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, to creative and literary figures who have contributed to French culture over the years. Past recipients range from Dennis Lim to Wes Anderson.

The event took place Friday at the Beverly Hills residence of French consul general Julie Duhaut-Bedos, who hosted the ceremony along with Rosalie Varda, daughter of director Agnès Varda. “We are gathered today to celebrate the remarkable career of Peter Debruge and his strong relationship with France,” said Duhaut-Bedos. “French cinema could not have asked for a better long-distance lover,” she continued.

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Presenting Debruge with the medal, Rosalie Varda talked about his deep connection with her mother, which started when they met at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and blossomed over the years, as he found opportunity to bring attention to her career as an outsider artist on multiple occasions. By the time the Academy recognized Agnès with an honorary Oscar in 2017, the two had become close enough that Debruge was invited to celebrate the night with the filmmaker and her family.

His enduring love and support for French films, Varda said, includes his oversight of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch list, which has recently included Alice Diop, Ladj Ly and Julia Ducournau. Varda applauded his commitment to not just French film culture, but global cinema in general, describing a visit Debruge made to Vienna, when he arranged to meet Michael Haneke during his office hours, where the two spoke in French for an hour.

“I’m deeply honored by this distinction,” Debruge said. “For the last quarter century, my calling has been to champion the talent of actors and auteurs, and my great fortune has been to work for Variety, a magazine that believes in the power of movies.”

After thanking those in attendance — a group that included Debruge’s colleagues, friends and 97-year-old grandmother — he concluded, “I’d like to blow a kiss to my spiritual grandmother, Agnès Varda, for all the ways that she has inspired me.”

Debruge, who was previously awarded a Palme d’Or in the Order of the Crown by the country of Belgium, has been a Variety critic and editor since 2005. He spent two years in Paris as the publication’s chief international film critic. He has written more than 2,000 film reviews, as well as an essay for the “Agnès Varda: Director’s Inspiration” exhibition catalog, to be published this fall. On Monday, Debruge will reunite with Rosalie Varda at the Academy Museum, where he will moderate an ”Agnès Varda in California“ panel featuring Marion Cotillard.

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