Karyn Kusame
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Famous for:
Director of 'Girlfight' (2000)
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Girlfight Director


"I think the biggest challenges end up being about guiding the production towards a short of shared consensus because that’s more what the system demands. And finding a way that everyone can sort of agree, at least enough to get behind the movie, that this is what the movie is. We embrace it and that’s a process that starts in prep, goes through production, and definitely through post. I think it’s a big challenge. The biggest difference between studio movies and little movies is that there’s just so many more people to have to kind of keep in the mix in the studios.'' Karyn Kusama (on challenges with a bigger budgeted film).

Film director and screenwriter Karyn Kusama made her first feature film with the award-winning boxing drama "Girlfight" (2000), and followed it up with the film adaptation of the animated television series, "Æon Flux" (2005). She recently directed episode "Little Boy Blue" (March 2007) of the fourth season of Showtime drama series "The L Word." She is now reportedly working on what she calls a "bio-fiction thriller," which she also plans to direct, and completing the screenplay with co-writer Christopher Peroni.

Sleeping Beauty

Childhood and Family:

In Brooklyn, New York, Karyn Kusame was born on March 21, 1968. She is a graduate of the film program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where her thesis film, "Sleeping Beauties," won a Mobil award in 1991.

Æon Flux


"I found myself initially making sort of personal documentaries. I became very interested in the idea of experimental narrative. Documentary was really helpful to me at the time to understand the mechanics of storytelling. And I still find a good documentary feels as gripping if not more so than a good narrative feature, because you're still crafting a story." Karyn Kusama.

A graduate of New York University's film school who won a Mobil award for her thesis film "Sleeping Beauties," Karyn Kusame served as an office manager (New York) for writer/director John Sayles' mystery film "Lone Star" (1996), starring Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Kris Kristofferson, and Matthew McConaughey.

"The original idea was conceived six years ago. So the film is sort of set apart from what the cultural trends are right now. However, I would venture to say that this kind of film serves as an alternative to those images, because I personally think they’re terribly damaging, not to mention just a bit boring. It feels like a limited culture that (Diana’s) living in, so perhaps that extends to the culture that we’re living in right now." Karyn Kusama (on her first film "Girlfight" (2000)).

Kusama made her debut feature film with "Girlfight," a boxing drama that she wrote and directed. The film that stars Michelle Rodriguez in her breakout role as Diana Guzman, a troubled teen who trained to become a successful boxer despite the skepticism of both her abusive father and the prospective trainers in the male-dominated sport, received general positive reviews. It won the Director's Award the Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and the Award of the Youth at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

The movie also took home Grand Special Prize Award from Deauville Film Festival, FIPRESCI Prize from Flanders International Film Festival, Open Palm Award from Gotham Awards, and Silver Spike Award from Valladolid International Film Festival. Additionally, Kusama won a Sierra Award for Best Female Newcomer at the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards.

"I never was violent in the way this character is violent. I wanted a much more interior life. I had an active imagination, and I was more the kid who was fascinated by the outcasts. I have a lot of empathy for those girls who just can’t seem to find a place for their kind of energy, their kind of intensity. I’m quite a bit different from (Diana), but I share her interests and her struggle for balance." Karyn Kusama.

Five years after her first film, Kusama followed it up with her next attempt, "Æon Flux" (2005), a futuristic post-apocalyptic film loosely adapted from the animated science fiction television series of the same name. It stars Oscar-winner Charlize Theron as the titular acrobatic assassin and was produced by an MTV Films production.

''Æon Flux'' completed its theatrical run on February 6, 2006, grossing a domestic take of $25,877,366 and a worldwide box office total of $52,307,030. On April 25, 2006, it was released on DVD, which has grossed $31.80 million in rental sales as of July 16, 2006.

On why she took the sci-fi genre, Kusama explained, "I think for me sci-fi is probably the most fertile genre there is to actually explore ideas about where we live today. You know, I think in times of sort of international crisis, which I feel we are in, sci-fi is where you almost have to go to really explore that stuff with any intelligence. I find that really exciting."

She also revealed why choosing Charlize Theron to star in ''Æon Flux,'' saying, "I think it seems pretty like an exciting choice. I mean, as an actor I would imagine going from something small and kind of maybe more gritty to something a little more, something kind of wilder and just so different in terms of its genre… I think it made perfect sense to me."

Recently, in 2007, Kusama turned to the small screen, directing episode "Little Boy Blue" of the fourth season of Showtime lesbian/bisexual drama series "The L Word." She is now reportedly working on what she calls a "bio-fiction thriller," which she also plans to direct, and finishing the screenplay with co-writer Christopher Peroni.

"I don't think I'm ever going to work on a movie again where I don't have final cut. I've realized I'm a strong-minded director with a very clear sense of what I want to do, and I just want to be left alone to do it and I'm not sure the studios are necessarily the most instructive places for filmmakers to be, except to maybe to learn about the hard realities of commerce and art intermingling." Karyn Kusama.


  • Cannes Film Festival: Award of the Youth--Foreign Film, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Sundance Film Festival: Directing Award--Dramatic, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Deauville Film Festival: Grand Special Prize, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Flanders International Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Gotham: Open Palm Award, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Best Female Newcomer, "Girlfight," 2000

  • Valladolid International Film Festival: Silver Spike, "Girlfight," 2000

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