Isabel Coixet

Isabel Coixet Castillo (Catalan pronunciation: [izəˈβɛl kuˈʃɛt]; born 9 April 1960) is a Spanish film director. She is one of the most prolific film directors of contemporary Spain, having directed twelve feature-length films since the beginning of her film career in 1988, in addition to documentary films, shorts, and commercials. Her films depart from the traditional national cinema of Spain, and help to “untangle films from their national context ... clearing the path for thinking about national film from different perspectives.”[1] The recurring themes of “emotions, feelings, and existential conflict” coupled with her distinct visual style secure the “multifaceted (she directs, writes, produces, and acts)” filmmaker's status as a “Catalan auteur.”[1][2]

Isabel Coixet
Isabel Coixet Castillo

(1960-04-09) 9 April 1960
Alma materUniversity of Barcelona
OccupationFilm director
Years active1989–present
Known forMy Life Without Me
The Secret Life of Words

Early life

Isabel Coixet (Barcelona[3], April, 9, 1960) started filming when she was given an 8 mm camera on the occasion of her First Communion. After obtaining a BA degree in History at Barcelona University, where she majored in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century History, she worked in advertising and spot writing with a magazine called Fotogramas. She continued in the world of advertising, producing brilliant work and standing out as creative director of the agency JWT.[4]

Her illustrious client list included BMW, Renault and Ikea. She won several accolades for her spots, but the ads did not fulfill her expectations.

Coixet made her first short film in 1984: Mira y verás.[5]


In 1988, Coixet made her debut as a scriptwriter and director in Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven (Too Old to Die Young). For this movie, she was nominated at the Goya Awards as a Best New Director.

In 1996, she traveled to the United States to shoot her first English-language feature film, entitled Things I Never Told You (Cosas que nunca te dije). This moving drama cast American actors led by Lili Taylor and Andrew McCarthy. Coixet received her second nomination at the Goya Awards for Best Original Screenplay. Coixet then connected with a French production company, and in 1998 she shot — for the first time in Spain and in Spanish — the historical adventure A los que aman. Two years later she founded her own production company, with which she produced her most acclaimed film to date, Mi vida sin mí (My Life Without Me). Since then she has been one of the most acclaimed directors of Spanish cinema.[5]

In 2000, she founded her own production company called Miss Wasabi Films, for which she has produced over 400 commercials.

Her international success came in 2003 thanks to the intimate drama My Life Without Me. The film was based on a short story by Nancy Kincaid. Canadian actress Sarah Polley played Ann, a young mother who decides to hide from her family that she has terminal cancer. This Hispanic-Canadian co-production was highly praised at the Berlin International Film Festival.[6]

Coixet then continued working with Polley on a new film, The Secret Life of Words, which was released in 2005 starring Sarah Polley, Tim Robbins and Javier Cámara. The film was awarded four Goyas: Best Film, Best Director, Best Production and Best Screenplay.

In 2005, Coixet joined eighteen other international filmmakers, among them Gus Van Sant, Walter Salles and Joel and Ethan Cohen, to make the groundbreaking collective project Paris, je t’aime, in which each director explored a different Paris quarter.

Coixet has also made prominent documentaries on major themes, such as Invisibles, which was selected for the "Panorama" section of the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, about the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders. Also the documentary Journey to the Heart of Torture, which was filmed in Sarajevo during the Balkan War and won an award at the October 2003 Human Rights Film Festival.

In April 2006, she was honored with the Creu de San Jordi De Cine Awards by the Generalitat de Catalunya. The Barcelona director received not one but two awards. In addition to the critical award for The Secret Life of Words (La vida secreta de las palabras) as the best Spanish film, she also received the Rosa de Sant Jordi prize, voted by the audience of Radio Nacional de España (RNE), for the best production. The award ceremony was held at the Palau de la Música.[7]

In 2008, Coixet released Elegy, which was filmed in Vancouver and produced by Lakeshore Entertainment. The film was based on Philip Roth's novel The Dying Animal, was written for the screen by Nicholas Meyer, and starred Penélope Cruz and Ben Kingsley. Elegy was presented at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival.[8]

In 2009, as an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, she premiered the film Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, shot in both Japan and Barcelona and starring Rinko Kikuchi, Sergi López and Min Tanaka, with a script by Coixet herself. And at the Centre D'Art Santa Mònica, she inaugurated From I to J, an installation in honor of the work of John Berger.

That same year she received the Gold Medal for Fine Arts and was also part of the jury of the 59th edition of the Berlin Film Festival.

In April 2009 at the Centre d'Arts Santa Mónica in Barcelona and in April 2010 at La Casa Encendida in Madrid, Coixet presented a monographic exhibition dedicated to the British writer, art critic, poet and artist John Berger entitled From I to J. A tribute by Isabel Coixet to John Berger, with the collaboration of the architect Benedetta Tagliabue and the participation of the actresses Penélope Cruz, Monica Bellucci, Isabelle Huppert, Maria de Medeiros, Sarah Polley, Tilda Swinton and Leonor Watling.[9]

Also in 2009 she directed a short documentary called La mujer es cosa de hombres about male violence and the media.[10] for a project entitled "50 years of..." about the history of Catalonia.

In 2010, she took on responsibility for the content of one of the three Spanish Pavilion lounges for the Expo Shanghai. Plus, she inaugurated the exhibition Aral. The Lost Sea, which shows her documentary with the same title, shot in Uzbekistan in 2009.[11][12]

In 2011, within the "Berlinale Specials" section of the Berlin Film Festival, she premiered the documentary Listening to Judge Garzón giving voice to the Spanish magistrate through an interview with writer Manuel Rivas. The film won the Goya in the Best Documentary category.[13]

During 2012, she directed a documentary about the 10 years of the Prestige disaster and the volunteers who participated in the recovery of the Galician coasts under the title White Tide.[14]

That same year, Coixet shot and produced Ayer no termina nunca (Yesterday Never Ends) which premiered in the Panorama Section of the 63rd edition of the International Film Festival of Berlin. The film also opened the Málaga Film Festival the same year, where it won four Silver Biznagas in the categories Special Jury Prize, Best Actress, Best Photography and Best Editing, the last two prizes won by Jordi Azategui.[15] In the end of 2012 she also started shooting a new project, which she finished in 2013, called Another Me, an English-language thriller written and directed by Coixet with a cast that featured Sophie Turner, Rhys Ifans, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Geraldine Chaplin, among others.[16]

In the summer of 2013 she started shooting Learning to Drive, an American production developed in New York City, based on an article published in The New York Times and starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson, with whom Isabel Coixet had already worked in Elegy. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the Grolsch People's Choice Award.[17]

Nobody Wants The Night was her next project, filmed in Norway, Bulgaria and the Canary Islands. The film starred Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi and Gabriel Byrne. The film opened the 66th Berlin International Film Festival to competition.[18]

Coixet is always interested in shooting documentaries to denounce what she doesn't agree with or to give voice to her protagonists. She shot a documentary in Chad at the end of 2014 narrated by Juliette Binoche entitled Talking about Rose: Prisoner of Hissène Habré. The piece relates the experience of a group of torture victims in their struggle to bring the former Chadian dictator to justice, an effort led by US human rights lawyer Reed Brody.[19]

During the 2015 edition of the Málaga Festival, the prize was awarded to her entire career and it was presented a retrospective documentary of her work, commissioned by the Festival itself, Words, Maps, Secrets And Other Things, directed by Elena Trapé.[4][20]

Also in 2015 she received the recognized prize of the French Ministry of Culture of Knight of Arts and Letters.[21]

During 2015 and 2016, Isabel Coixet directs the project Spain in a Day, the Spanish version of the documentary crowdsourcing project produced by Mediapro. The project aims to portray the reality of a country reflected by hundreds of domestic videos recorded during the same day and that has had as direct precedents Britain in a Day and Italy in a Day. In the case of Spain in a Day, the videos were recorded on 24 October 2015 by thousands of volunteers.[22]

In the summer of 2016 she directed the feature film The Bookshop (La librería). The script adapted by Coixet was based on the novel of the same name by the English writer Penelope Fitzgerald and received the prize for the best literary adaptation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2017.[23] The film was shot in Northern Ireland and Barcelona, starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson.[24] The Bookshop inaugurated the SEMINCI 2017, as a world premiere, receiving good reviews and it was commercially released in Spain on November 10, with a very positive critical reception and great public success.[25][26][27]

The Bookshop was premiered outside Spain in a "Berlinale Special Gala" at the 68th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, which took place in February 2018.[28]

In February of 2019, Coixet released the film Elisa y Marcela in collaboration with Netflix The film, based on the first registered same-sex marriage in Spain, was the third original Spanish film by Netflix. [29]


Isabel Coixet created her own production company in 2000, Miss Wasabi, with the vocation to self-produce her own more personal projects. The production company has dedicated itself basically to advertising, the making of video clips, documentaries and a fictional feature film, but also to projects outside the audiovisual sector, such as exhibitions, books and other types of cultural projects. Among the main projects, directed and produced by Isabel Coixet, are the documentary 'Aral, el mar perdido' (2009), 'From I to J' (2010), 'Escuchando al Juez Garzón' (2011), the feature film 'Ayer no termina nunca' (2013), or "Talking about Rose. Prisoner of Hissène Habré" (2015).[30]

50 años de...

On the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of TVE Catalunya (TVE Cataluña) Isabel Coixet, along with fifteen other Catalan documentary filmmakers, had the idea of capturing in images, taken from the archive of Televisión Española, the last half Spanish century. The programme 50 years of... (50 años de…) is in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first TVE broadcast in Catalonia, whose first headquarters was the mythical Miramar Hotel in Barcelona, which was maintained for twenty-four years, until 1983, when the production center was moved to San Cugat del Vallés. There has been a second season, as well as a third entitled Cómo hemos cambiado.[31][32][33]

Personal life and Political Views

Coixet was first released in the cinema almost at the same time as she released in maternity. Her daughter, Zoe, was born in 1997, a year after the release of her first feature, Things I Never Told You. With her and her husband, DJ and musician César Sala, she formed a home in Barcelona, from where she has no problem sharing her opinions on the debate around the Catalan secession.

This is not surprising, given that she has always shown that she has a marked political profile (her steps in advertising have led her to create campaign spots for the Spanish party PSOE).[34]

Style and Themes

Coixet's work as a director is striking for being, as The New York Times describes her, “unclassifiable.”[35] Depending on the film, she shoots in English or Spanish, and subjects are diverse. Coixet's trademark is her filmmaking technique, which was derived from her background in advertising, where visuals, color, and composition are carefully constructed.[35] She works as the camera operator on all of her films.

Among her most recurrent themes we can find a concern for communication, for words as a way of conventional understanding between people and that usually do not have the effect we expect. As she herself has acknowledged on occasion, she is obsessed with those situations in which messages do not reach their recipient.

Another of her signs of identity is her marked social commitment, both with themes such as global warming (which she showed in 'The Secret Life of Words') and with social themes (documentaries such as the one made to Judge Garzón are a good example).

Love and solitude are also constant in her cinema, in a very deep and spiritual way, nothing topical and stereotyped, although there is a common place recognizable in several of her productions that is the laundry.

The filmmaker's approach to her characters and their stories is surprising because of her ability to get them in deep. To offer them to the spectator with a simple but tremendously transparent view.

This search for connection is influenced by one of her great referents: the poet John Berger, from whom she draws, in his own words, the conviction that "anything can explain the world" through the connection between poetry, philosophy, etc.

In Coixet's universe, spiritual connections between people are combined with a strong social consciousness, always ready to denounce the injustices of the world.

In addition, Isabel Coixet's political and feminist involvement is evident. For example, The Secret Life of Words is a film that denounces the rape of a certain woman in a certain conflict: the Balkan War.[36]



Goya Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1989 Best New Director Too Old To Die Young Nominee
1997 Best Original Screenplay Things I Never Told You Nominee [37]
2004 Best Director My Life Without Me Nominee [38]
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2006 Best Production Supervision The Secret Life of Words. Won [39]
Best Original Screenplay Won
Best Director Won
Best Film Won
2008 Best Documental Film (shared with other 4 directors) Invisibles Won [40]
2012 Best Documental Film Listening to Judge Garzón Won [41]
2016 Best Director Nobody Wants the Night Nominee [42]
Best Film Nominee [42]
2017 Best Director The Bookshop Won [43][44]
Best Adapted Sreenplay Won [45][46]

Medals of the Circle of Cinematographic Writers

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1997 Best Original Screenplay Things I Never Told You Won [47]
2003 Best Adapted Screenplay My Life Without Me Won [48]
2006 Best Original Screenplay The Secret Life of Words. Won [47][49]
Best Director Won
2017 Best Director The Bookshop Won [50]
Best Adapted Sreenplay Won

Feroz Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2017 Best Director The Bookshop Won [51]

Forqué Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2004 Best Film of the Year My Life Without Me Nominee
2006 Best Film of the Year The Secret Life of Words. Won [52]
2008 Special EGEDA Award for the Best Documental Feature Invisibles Nominee
2016 Best Feature Nobody Wants the Night Nominee
2017 Best Director The Bookshop Won [53]

Gaudí Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2018 Best Director The Bookshop Nominee
Best Screenplay Nominee

Butaca Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Best Catalan Film My Life Without Me Won
2006 The Secret Life of Words. Won

Other Awards


  • My Life Without Me (Mi vida sin mí) (2003)
  • La vida es un guión (2004)
  • La vida secreta de las palabras (2005)
  • Mapa de los sonidos de Tokio (2009)
  • Isabel Muñoz (2009)
  • From I to J (2009)
  • Alguien debería prohibir los domingos por la tarde (2011)
  • La vida secreta de Isabel Coixet (2011)[54]

See also


  1. Pavlovic, Tatjana (2009). 100 Years of Spanish Cinema. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. pp. 181–225. ISBN 978-1-4051-8420-5.
  2. Smith, Paul Julian (January 2004). "Waiting for Pedro". Sight and Sound. 14 (1): 9–9.
  3. "Isabel Coixet biography". Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  4. "Oficial Malaga Film Festival Webpage". Festival de Malaga.
  5. "Guía del Ocio". Guía del Ocio.
  6. "My Life Without Me | Mein Leben ohne mich". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  7. País, Ediciones El (2006-04-26). "Isabel Coixet se convierte en la gran triunfadora de los Sant Jordi de cine". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  8. "Elegy". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  9. "Isabel Coixet recrea el universo del escritor John Berger y le hace un homenaje". (in Spanish). 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  10. 50 años de... La mujer, cosa de hombres (TV) (2009) (in Spanish), retrieved 2018-11-16
  11. "El documental 'Aral. El mar perdido' de Isabel Coixet, vuelve al Roca Barcelona Gallery -". (in Spanish). 2011-03-16. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  12. "China muestra a un público multitudinario su Expo en Shanghai". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  13. "Coixet presenta el documental sobre Garzón". Fotogramas (in Spanish). 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  14. Internet, Unidad Editorial. "Isabel Coixet: 'Ahora tenemos 50 'Prestige' a la vez'". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  15. "Palmarés del Festival de Málaga 2013: '15 años y un día' y 'Ayer no termina nunca' salen triunfadoras". eCartelera (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  16. Another Me, retrieved 2018-11-16
  17. "'The Imitation Game' Wins Toronto Audience Award". TheWrap. 2014-09-14. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  18. "Nadie quiere la noche | Nobody Wants the Night". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  19. "Isabel Coixet calienta el juicio contra Hisséne Habré con la historia de Rose". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  20. García, Rocío (2015-04-24). "Isabel Coixet recibe en Málaga el premio a toda su carrera". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  21. "Isabel Coixet recibe la medalla de Caballero de la Orden de las Artes y las Letras de Francia". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  22. 20Minutos. "'Spain in a day', el proyecto de Isabel Coixet, recibe más de 5.200 vídeos en sólo 48 horas". - Últimas Noticias (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  23. "Frankfurter Buchmesse prize for Best International Literary Adaptation 2017". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  24. "Interview with EWA president Isabel Coixet - EWA Women". EWA Women. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  25. "'La librería', de Isabel Coixet: La vida secreta de las palabras". Fotogramas (in Spanish). 2017-10-20. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  26. País, El (2017-10-27). "Así es 'La librería' de Isabel Coixet". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  27. ""LA LIBRERÍA", DE ISABEL COIXET, DA LA SORPRESA EN LA TAQUILLA ESPAÑOLA | El Blog de Cine Español". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  28. "Berlinale Special & Berlinale Series". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  29. 20Minutos. "Isabel Coixet se alía con Netflix para su nueva película, 'Elisa y Marcela'". - Últimas Noticias (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  30. "Miss Wasabi Films, la productora de Isabel Coixet, coproduce varios filmes dirigidos por mujeres". Audiovisual451 (in Spanish). 2015-11-24. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  31. "50 años de... | La evolución de la sociedad española, en 16 capítulos (temporada 2009) -". (in Spanish). 2009-08-17. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  32. "Wayback Machine". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  33. "50 años de... | La evolución de la sociedad española (segunda temporada) -". (in Spanish). 2009-12-28. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  34. "El lado más íntimo de los candidatos a Mejor Director en los Premios Goya 2016 - Isabel Coixet se licenció en H... | loc | EL MUNDO". ELMUNDO (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  35. Minder, Raphael (28 September 2011). "Isabel Coixet, an 'Unclassifiable' Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  36. "Isabel Coixet para principiantes". Fotogramas (in Spanish). 2017-04-09. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  37. "Cosas que nunca te dije » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  38. "Mi vida sin mí » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  39. "La vida secreta de las palabras » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  40. "Invisibles » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  41. "Escuchando al Juez Garzón » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  42. "Nadie quiere la noche » Premios Goya 2019". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  43. Ruiz Gómez, Lara (February 4, 2018). "Isabel Coixet se corona como mejor directora en los Goya de las mujeres". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  44. "Isabel Coixet, Goya a la mejor dirección por "La librería"". Radiotelevisión Española (in Spanish). February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  45. "'La librería' de Isabel Coixet. Goya 2018 a Mejor guión adaptado". Radiotelevisión Española (in Spanish). February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  46. "Isabel Coixet gana el Goya al mejor guion adaptado por 'La librería'". El Economista (in Spanish). EcoDiario. February 3, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  47. "::: CEC ::: Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  48. "::: CEC ::: Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  49. "'La vida secreta de las palabras', vencedora en los premios del Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos |". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  50. "Premiados en la 73 Gala de las Medallas CEC. Pasen y vean". CÍRCULO DE ESCRITORES CINEMATOGRÁFICOS (in Spanish). 2018-01-29. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  51. "Premios Feroz 2018 | Premios Feroz". Premios Feroz (in Spanish). 2017-12-05. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  52. Press, Europa (2006-05-10). "'La vida secreta de las palabras' triunfa en la IX edición de los Premios Cinematográficos José María Forqué". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  53. Belinchón, Gregorio (2018-01-14). "'El autor' y 'La librería' empatan a mejor película en los premios Forqué". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  54. "Isabel Coixet". Retrieved 2018-11-16.

Further reading

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