Nicolas Philibert was born in 1951 in Nancy (France). After studying philosophy, he turned to film and became an assistant director, notably for René Allio, Alain Tanner and Claude Goretta.
In 1978, with Gérard Mordillat, he co-directed his first documentary feature, His Master's Voice (La voix de son maître) in which a dozen bosses of leading industrial groups talk about control, hierarchy and power, gradually sketching out the image of a future world ruled by the financial sector…
From 1985 to 1987, Nicolas Philibert shot various mountaineering and sports adventure films for television, then started directing documentary features that would all obtain a theatrical release : Louvre City (La Ville Louvre, 1990), In the Land of the Deaf (Le Pays des sourds, 1992), Animals (Un animal, des animaux, 1995), Every Little Thing (La Moindre des choses, 1996), as well as a film essay pitched between documentary and fiction: Who Knows? (Qui sait ?, 1998). In 2001, he directed To Be and To Have (Etre et avoir), about daily life in a "single class" school in a mountain village. Screened as part of the Official Selection at the 2002 Cannes Festival, Prix Louis Delluc 2002, the film was a huge success in France and around forty other countries. In Back to Normandy (Retour en Normandie, 2006), he returned to the settings of I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother… by René Allio, the director who allowed him to take his first steps in film. His penultimate film, Nénette, shot in 2009 at the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, is about a female orangutan aged 40, in captivity for 37 years.
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