Annette Insdorf

Professor, Film Studies, School of the Arts
513B Dodge Hall


Annette Insdorf is an internationally renowned educator, and author of Francois Truffaut, Indelible Shadows: Film and HolocaustPhilip Kaufman, Intimations: The Cinema of Wojciech Has, and Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes.


She is a Professor in the Graduate Film Program of Columbia’s School of the Arts, and served as Director of Undergraduate Film Studies for 27 years. She is the recipient of the 2008 Award for Excellence in Teaching from Columbia’s School of General Studies. From 1990-1995, she was Chair of the Graduate Film Division. She taught film history and criticism at Yale University from 1975 till 1988.


She is the author of Francois Truffaut, a study of the French director's work: the updated edition was reissued in 1995 by Cambridge University Press. After the first publication of the book in 1978, she also served as his translator. Considered an authority on the French New Wave, she provided voice-over commentary for the DVDs of Shoot the Piano PlayerJules and Jim, and The Last Metro, and was one of the people interviewed in the French documentary, Francois Truffaut: Stolen Portraits (1993).


Her second book, Indelible Shadows: Film and Holocaust, is considered a landmark study in the subject. The revised edition, with a preface by Elie Wiesel, was published in 1990. For the updated third edition, she received the National Board of Review's William K. Everson Award in Film History in January 2003.


Her acclaimed book, Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, was reissued in 2013 by Northwestern University Press. She also did the audio commentary for Kieslowski's Three Colors DVD package, as well as The Double Life of Veronique.


Her study of Philip Kaufman's cinema was published by the University of Illinois Press's "Contemporary Film Directors" series in 2012, and is the first book about the director of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Right Stuff


Two of her books were published in 2017: Intimations: The Cinema of Wojciech Has, about the work of the Polish filmmaker (Northwestern University Press), and Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes (Columbia University Press). The latter served as the basis for one of her two series on FilmStruck.


Her DVD commentaries include Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds and Milcho Manchevksi's Before the Rain. She has been a frequent contributor to The New York Times as well as The Huffington Post, and her articles have appeared in The San Francisco ChronicleThe Los Angeles TimesFilm CommentThe Washington Post, and Newsweek.


Dr. Insdorf was born in Paris, and moved to New York, where she received her BA from Queens College, and later her PhD from Yale University as a Danforth Fellow. In 1986, she was named Chevalier dans l'ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. A second honor followed in 1993, when she was "knighted" for her educational efforts, and a third in 1999 when she was promoted to "Officer" in the arts.


She was honored by the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York in 2008; by the National Arts Club in 2005 (Gold Medal for Contribution to French Culture in the U.S., jointly with her mother, Dr. Cecile Insdorf); and by Anthology Film Archives in 2004. She was invited to deliver the prestigious University Lecture of the Fall 2004 semester at Columbia, and the Schoff Lectures in 2014.


Professor Insdorf was a jury member at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival. A popular panel moderator, she is responsible for the panels at the annual Telluride Film Festival (where she is also the main translator). Since 1983, Professor Insdorf has hosted "Reel Pieces," the popular and prestigious film series at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y; her guests have included Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Pedro Almodovar, Angelina Jolie, and Al Pacino.


On television, Professor Insdorf co-hosted (with Roger Ebert) Cannes Film Festival coverage for BRAVO/IFC; has served as host for TeleFrance Cine-Club (a national cable-TV program), and Years of Darkness (an 8-week series of films about the World War II experience shown by WNET/PBS); and she has appeared on 20/20Charlie RoseThe NewsHour with Jim LehrerGood Morning, America, and CNN.


She is the Executive Producer of Shoeshine, nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Live-Action Short of 1987; the 10-minute movie starring Jerry Stiller and Ben Stiller also won the Grand Prize at the Montreal Film Festival. In addition, she served as Executive Producer of Short-Term Bonds—a 9-minute film that won a CINE Golden Eagle—and Performance Pieces, starring F. Murray Abraham, which was named Best Fiction Short at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.