Wim Wenders was born in Düsseldorf in 1945. After two years of studying
medicine and philosophy and a yearlong stay in Paris as a painter he attended
the University of Television and Film in Munich from 1967 to 1970.
One of the most important figures to emerge from the “New German Cinema”
period in the 1970s, he was a founding member of the German film distribution
“Filmverlag der Autoren” in 1971 and he established his own production
company “Road Movies” in Berlin in 1975. Alongside directing atmospheric
auteur films Wenders works with the medium of photography, and his poignant
images of desolate landscapes engage themes including memory, time and
A major survey of his photography, “Pictures from the surface of the Earth”, was
exhibited in museums and art institutions worldwide. Wim Wenders has
published numerous books with essays and photographs.
Wim Wenders became a member of the Academy of Arts Berlin in 1984. He
was awarded honorary doctorates at the Sorbonne University in Paris (1989),
the Theological Faculty of the University of Fribourg (1995), the University of
Louvain (2005) and the Architectural Faculty of the University of Catania (2010).
He is founding member and president of the European Film Academy and
member of the order Pour le Mérite. Currently he is teaching film as a professor
at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg.
Wenders lives in Berlin, together with his wife, photographer Donata Wenders.
Additional facts / supplemental information
name “Wim” is rather of Dutch origin and had occurred
on Wim’s mother’s side of the family. The name had
been decided upon by his parents, but was refused by the authorities
on grounds that it was not “a proper German name”.
The most similar-sounding name was Wilhelm and so his birth certificate
and his passport state his full name as Ernst Wilhelm Wenders,
Ernst being his godfather’s name.
returned to Germany in 1967, worked briefly in the Düsseldorf
office of United Artists and that autumn entered the "Hochschule
für Fernsehen and Film" (Graduate School of Film and
Television), which had just been founded in Munich. (Rainer Werner
Fassbinder was one of the rejects, and was so pissed off that
he immediately started to make movies to show them...)
Between 1967 and 1970, parallel to his 3 years
at the HFF, Wim also worked as a film critic and contributed to
the film review "FilmKritik", to the Munich daily newspaper
"Süddeutsche Zeitung.", to the magazine TWEN and
During the same period he finished several short
films and in the hot summer of 1968 was arrested during a demonstration
protesting against the assault on Rudi Dutschke. He was given
a six and a half month suspended sentence for resisting arrest.
1971, together with fourteen other German filmmakers, he started
a production and distribution cooperative called "Filmverlag
der Autoren". That company became the nucleus of the “New
In 1976, he started "Road Movies Filmproduktion
Inc." in Berlin, which produced over the years not only Wenders’
films, but was involved in more than a hundred productions and
coproductions up to 2003. For a number years in the early 80s,
Wim also had a production company in New York together with Chris
Sievernich, Gray City Inc.
1977, he finished "The American Friend", his first international
co-production which brought him to the attention of Francis Ford
Coppola. In 1978, upon invitation of Coppola, he went to the United
States to shoot “Hammett” for Zoetrope Productions,
which occupied him, among other works, until 1982.
During various interruptions in the shooting of the film, Wenders made
"Lightning over Water" (together with his friend, director
Nicholas Ray) and then "The State of Things", which
won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival of 1982, the first
in a series of prestigious international acknowledgments.
the summer of 1982 Wim directed his first (and only) play, "Über
die Dörfer" by Peter Handke for the “Salzburger
from Los Angeles to New York in 1982, Wim had started working
on a script together with Sam Shepard whom he had first met in
1978, when he had wanted to cast him as Hammett. (The studio had
refused Wenders’ choice at the time.) Wim had written afirst script based on Shepard’s “MotelChronicles”,
but the two then decided to start from scratch. The film was then
shot in the summer of 1983 and was eventually titled “Paris,
1984 - member of the "Akademie
der Künste" in Berlin.
1987 - publication of first photo book, "Written in the West"
honorary doctor title from the Sorbonne
University in Paris
Wilhelm Murnau Award in Bielefeld.
“Tokyo-Ga”, a film on his favorite director, the great
Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, he made another documentary film
a couple of years later on fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. “Notebook
on Cities and Clothes".
In 2002 Wim directed 'Twelve Miles to Trona', a segment
for the Nicholas McClintok project “Ten Minutes Older”. Fellow directors on this project were Jim Jarmush, Spike Lee, Chen Kaige,
Werner Herzog, Aki Kaurismaki and Victor Erice.
He shot a feature-length music documentary in Germany, “Ode to Cologne”
with his friends from BAP, a Cologne based Rock’n Roll band
who sing in their local language that needs subtitling in the
rest of Germany.
Between 2001 and 2003 he also worked on “Soul
of a Man”, his contribution to the 7-part BLUES series that
was executive-producedand initiated by Martin Scorsese.
In 1987 he published his first book, “Written in the West”, with photographs from the American West. To date, numerous other books followed, including essays, photo books and accompanying publications for his films and exhibitions, including the book “Pictures from the Surface of the Earth”. Museums and galleries around the world have shown his photographs in solo exhibitions.
In 2006 Wim spent time in the Congo; contributing
to a project for 'Medicos Sin Fronteras' the Spanish chapter of
'Doctors without Borders'. The resulting segment 'Invisibles',
premiered at the 2007 Berlinale.