Patricia Rozema | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Patricia Rozema

Born to a Dutch immigrant family, Rozema took an Honours B.A. in Philosophy and English from Calvin College (1981), worked briefly in theatre (winning several awards for writing and directing) and then in television in Chicago, New York and Toronto.

Patricia Rozema

 Patricia Rozema, film director, screenwriter (b at Kingston, Ont 20 Aug 1958). After writing and directing only one short film, Patricia Rozema came to international recognition with her first feature film. I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) is one of Canada's most successful films both critically and commercially, and was voted by 100 international critics and filmmakers as one of Canada's 10 best films ever.

Born to a Dutch immigrant family, Rozema took an Honours B.A. in Philosophy and English from Calvin College (1981), worked briefly in theatre (winning several awards for writing and directing) and then in television in Chicago, New York and Toronto. After a five-week night course in film production, she began her film career with a short starring Linda GRIFFITHS and entitled Passion: A Letter in 16mm (1985). While writing her first feature, she apprenticed as assistant director on David CRONENBERG's The Fly (1986).

In 1987, I'VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING, which Patricia Rozema wrote, co-produced (with Alex Raffe), directed and edited, was selected for the prestigious Director's Fortnight series in Cannes, where it won the coveted Prix de la Jeunesse. Released in theatres all over the world, the film's success tagged Rozema as a fresh new voice in Canadian cinema.

Her second feature, White Room (1990), was darker and more ambitious in scope than Mermaids. It pursued similar themes of the artist in conflict with public expectations and critical formulas, and further developed Rozema's characteristically baroque visual style.

In 1991 Rozema made the 20-minute Desperanto for a compilation feature, Montreal Vu Par (Montreal Stories), comprising short films by six of Canada's major directors. Her witty treatment of subtitles that come to life has been described as "pure poetry."

When Night Is Falling (1995) concerned a love triangle involving two women and a man, set in the contrasting social and visual regimes of a Calvinist private college and a modern circus. Gorgeously baroque in its visual style and sensually evocative in its treatment of a repressed woman coming to terms with her erotic desires, the film was invited to the Official Competition of the Berlin Film Festival, and won popular audience awards at festivals around the world and first prizes at gay and lesbian festivals in London, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

When Night Is Falling was followed by The Hunger (1996) for television and Inspired by Bach (1997), produced by Canada's acclaimed RHOMBUS MEDIA and featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Her next feature film, Mansfield Park (1999), was a co-production of the Arts Council of England, the British Broadcasting Corporation, HAL Films (UK) and Miramax Films (US); it was adapted from Jane Austen's novel and directed by Rozema in England. Widely considered Rozema's masterpiece for its originality in adaptation and deftness in direction, she collaborated on the film with her former partner Lesley Barber, who composed the musical soundtrack.

In 2000 she was commissioned, as one of many distinguished international directors on the project, to direct Happy Days, a play by Samuel Beckett. In the same year she wrote and directed This Might Be Good (2000), a six-minute short commissioned by the Toronto International Film Festival. She was also the executive producer and script doctor for the mini-series A Wrinkle in Time (2003) for ABC Television.

In 2006 Patricia Rozema departed from her usual practice to direct a short film based on an essay by noted philosopher Mark KINGWELL. In the next year she directed the pilot and two episodes of a television series for HBO, Tell Me You Love Me. The series, which involved three couples and a sex therapist, took bold steps in the depiction of sex and sexuality on television.

In 2008 Rozema took on another commission from HBO Films to direct an adaptation of the popular "American Girl" series by Valerie Tripp. Kit Kittredge, An American Girl is set in Cincinnati during the Great Depression, and stars Stanley Tucci and Joan Cusack, with Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin as Kit. With a budget estimated at $10 million and an elaborate and realistic period setting, this was one of Rozema's grandest productions.

For HBO Rozema wrote the script for Grey Gardens, an adaptation of the Maysles Brothers 1975 documentary of the same title. Another elaborate production, with major stars Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, the film was nominated for dozens of awards and won, among others, a Golden Globe and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture Made for Television (2010). That year Rozema was commissioned by HBO to direct In Treatment, the highly successful series about a psychotherapist and his patients, starring Gabriel Byrne.

In 2010/11 she shared the Universal screenwriter-in-residence position at the University of Toronto with Semi Chellas. Patricia Rozema became one of several directors of Bob Martin and Don MCKELLAR's psychotherapy-based comic series for CBC, Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays (2011-), filmed in Ottawa.