Street Artist JR and Filmmaker Agnès Varda Nab an Oscar Nomination for Their Road-Tripping Documentary

The 89-year-old New Wave cinema pioneer gets her first Oscar nomination after teaming up with the 34-year-old artist.

Agnès Varda and JR in the film Faces Places. Film still courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

Faces Places, an unlikely buddy comedy starring 89-year-old Belgian filmmaker Agnès Varda, a pioneer of French New Wave cinema, and 34-year-old French street artist JR, is among the nominees for the 90th Academy Awards. The movie, originally titled Visages Villages, is one of five pictures up for Best Documentary Feature.

Crisscrossing the French countryside in a van that doubles as a photo studio, stocked with a large-format photo printer, the duo took pictures of the locals at each stop, printing out images and pasting them on nearby buildings. Suddenly, the everyman is elevated to the status of hero in his own backyard, as when JR covers the shipping container stacks in Le Havre with larger-than-life images of the dockworkers’ wives.

Agnès Varda and JR, <em>Faces Places</em>. Movie poster courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

Agnès Varda and JR, Faces Places. Movie poster courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

A portrait of two artists and their charming odd-couple rapport, the film relies heavily on the participation of people Varda and JR encounter throughout their journey.

“Our aims, on his side and on my side, had some common points, really: to be interested in other people, unknown people, not being famous people,” Varda told New York Magazine in October, noting that she “fell in love” with JR’s truck, which he has used to photograph people in cities around the world. “We decided on people who have no power.”

“We’ve always seen heroes in anonymous people,” said JR to Variety. “You can stop anyone in the street and you will find an amazing story.”

Faces Places marks Varda’s first Oscar nomination, despite her storied career—although she was presented an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards, recognizing lifetime achievement in the film industry, in November. The oldest nominee ever, she has stated that this will be her last full-length film. (Varda and JR share director credit.)

The awards will be handed out on March 4, rather than in late February, as is the norm, due to the 2018 Winter OlympicsFaces Places is up against Abacus: Small Enough to Jail; Icarus; Last Men in Aleppo; and Strong Island. The film was previously awarded the L’Oeil d’Or, the top documentary prize, at its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.

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