University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Adoor Gopalakrishnan Archive

Adoor-GopalakrishnanThe Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center in the UWM Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres honors the legacy of internationally celebrated filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Its goals are to preserve and promote the films of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, as well as to encourage and support students in the Department to create new films in the spirit of the filmmaker. The Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Fund (AGARF) in the UWM Foundation supports these programs. The Fund has been established with a first gift in honor of Adoor Gopalakrishnan and in memory of the artist’s beloved mother Mrs. Gouri Kunajmma.

“Adoor's films are unique since they articulate stories of human and social issues that work universally but simultaneously have a very local background, form and setting. For me, it is very impressive to find an original answer to a very general question of how you translate local, social and historical questioning to a global level and at the same time, discover a new world. I do not know at all about the people of Kerala, the language of Kerala and the landscape of Kerala. But you experience it in his films so strongly with the locale and its questioning.” -Jean Michel Frodon – Former editor and critic Cahiers du Cinema and Le Monde

Projection and Archive Housing

To preserve the quality and feel of the original work, the films will be archived in the UWM Libraries in their original 35 mm prints and also in digital formats. They will be used for both scholarly study and community engagement. To bring the films to the audience in their original format the UWM- Union Theater will be converted to include an archival 35mm projector system.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan Fellowship

The Center will encourage and provide financial support to students in the Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres to study Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s cinema or other Indian films like his, and to create new films in the filmmaker’s spirit: innovative, bold, uncompromising expressions that are engaged in critical conversations with the world.

“As is evident from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films, he remains indisputably Indian. For the last 32 years or more of his unfailing career, he is seen to have grown from strength to strength, always at his creative best. In the Indian context today, he is to my mind the most original and imaginative filmmaker, humanist to the core and realist by conviction. Hidden behind the façade of simplicity, his films are replete with layers of perception. There is no way but to be overwhelmed by feelings of fulfillment.” Mrinal Sen, Veteran Indian filmmaker

Brief Biography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Writer – director Adoor Gopalakrishnan was born in Kerala, India in 1941 into a family that patronized Kathakali and other classical performing arts. The child Gopalakrishnan will grow up to make his name synonymous with the name of his birth town, Adoor.

He started acting on the amateur stage at the early age of eight and wrote and directed over twenty stage plays during his student days.

Adoor graduated from the Gandhigram Rural University, Tamil Nadu state, India in 1960 specializing in Economics, Political Science and Public Administration. He left the government job of a statistical investigator to study cinema at the Film Institute of India (now known as the Film and Television Institute of India), Pune. Graduating in1965 with specialization in Screenplay Writing and Advanced Film Direction, he pioneered the film society movement in Kerala. This movement spread through out the state and, at present, there are more than hundred Film Societies in Kerala. He also took the initiative to form India’s first film co-operative for production, distribution and exhibition of quality films.

Adoor has scripted and directed eleven feature films and about thirty short films and documentaries. Notable amongst the non-feature films are those on Kerala’s performing arts: Kootiyattam (3 hours) and Mohiniyattam (Dance of the Enchantress) among them.

His debut feature, Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice) went on to win the national awards for best film, best director, best cameraman and best actress. He has since received national awards for best director four more times.

Adoor’s third feature, Elippathayam (Rat Trap) won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for 'the most original and imaginative film' of the year, 1982.

The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) prize has gone to his six successive films: Mukhamukham (Face to Face), Anantaram (Monologue), Mathilukal (The Walls), Vidheyan (The Servile), Kathapurushan (Man of the Story) and Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill).

Other major international awards include the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens), and the INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim).

His films have been shown in every important festival in the world including Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Nantes and Rotterdam.

His collection of essays, Cinemayude Lokam (The World of Cinema) was given the national award for the Best book on Cinema in 1984.

Cinemaanubhavam (The Experience of Cinema), a collection of articles dealing with the art and practice of cinema won the Kerala State award (2004) for best book on Cinema.

His third book, Cinema, Saahityam, Jeevitham (Film, Literature and Life) was published in 2005.

His fourth, again a collection of essays, Cinema – Samskaram (Cinema – Culture) was published in 2012.

The fifth book Pathinonnu Thirakkathakal (Eleven Film Scripts), the scripts of all his eleven feature films in one volume has just been published.

In 2003, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC honored him by holding a complete retrospective of his work. Other major retrospectives of his films include those at the Cinematheque in Paris, La Rochelle, Pesaro, Lincoln Centre in New York, Fribourg, Lyons, Ljubljana, Munich, Paris and the University of Chicago.

He has served on the juries of Venice, Singapore (Chair), Hawaii, Fribourg (Chair) Alexandria (Chair), New Delhi, Sochi, Shanghai, Dubai (Chair), Cairo (Chair), Valladolid (Chair), Goa (Chair) etc.

International film festivals of Denver, Cairo and New Jersey have honored him with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

In recognition of his contribution to international cinema, the French Government has bestowed on him the title of 'The Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters’, a top French Award (2004).

In 2005 he received the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the Government of India’s highest honor for Lifetime achievement in cinema.

In 2005 Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala conferred on him the honorary degree of D. Litt.

In 2006 the Government of India honored him with its top civilian award, Padma Vibhushan for his contribution to the Arts (Cinema).

In 2010 the University of Kerala conferred on him the honorary degree of D.Litt.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan lives in Thiruvananthapuram (formerly known as Trivandrum) with his wife, Sunanda Gopalakrishnan. They have a daughter (Aswathy Dorje, married to Tsering Dorje) and a grand son (Tashy Norbu Dorje).

“Adoor’s films have been celebrated with retrospectives and tributes in both Europe and America at festivals and at non-commercial outlets. He is recognized by cineastes as a filmmaker with a unique style and the force and compassion to go with it. No other Indian filmmaker has been so consistently assured and so determined, whatever the circumstances, to hold to his cinematic and moral principles.

His films come from deep inside his own culture but, unlike those films which desperately seek to reach audiences by denying their own sources and becoming ‘International’, they speak eloquently to other cultures as well.’ - Derek Malcolm, The Guardian, U.K.



Swayamvaram (One's Own Choice) 123 Mins/B&W/1972
National Awards for Best film. Best direction. Best photography and Best actress.
Kerala State Awards for Best film. Best Photography, Best art direction and Best music.
Certificate of Merit: International film review, Colombo.
Festivals: Moscow, Nantes, Colombo, Pesaro, Fribourg, La Rochelle, London, Paris, New York, Melbourne etc.


Kodiyettam (The Ascent) 128 Mins/B&W/1977
National Awards for best regional film and best actor.
Kerala State Awards for best film, best direction, best script, best art direction and Best actor.
Festivals: Berlin, La Rochelle, Adelaide, Tunis, Valladolid, Munich, Pesaro, Fribourg, New York etc.


Elippathayam (Rat-Trap) 121 Mins/Col/1981
British Film Institute Award for the most original and imaginative film shown at the National Film Theatre, London (1982).
National Awards for best regional film and Best audiography.
Kerala State Awards for best film, best Photography and best audiography.
Festivals: Cannes, London, Chicago, New York, Sao Paulo, La Rochelle, Nantes, Hawaii, Sydney, Melbourne, Durban, Pesaro, Fribourg, Helsinki, Paris etc.


“Adoor's films are meditations on the human condition. He has an extraordinary ability to delve into the complexities of human existence: compulsions forced by history and tradition, and by the dynamics of social and political change. His narrative appears simple enough but as the stories unfold, nothing is simple any more. Moral ambiguities, multiple realities spin their web around the protagonists who are driven by forces that are as much released by individual volition as they are by social, environmental or historical factors.” Filmmaker Shyam Benegal


Mukhamukham (Face to Face) 107 Mins/Col/1984
FIPRESCI Prize, New Delhi (1984)
National Awards for best direction, best screen-play and best audiography.
Kerala State Awards for best film, best direction, best photography, best audiography and best editing.
Festivals: London, Locarno, Tyneside, Hong Kong, Brussels, Antwerp, Figuera da Foz, Nantes, New York, Fribourg, Denver, Durban, La Rochelle, Montpelliere etc.


Anantaram (Monologue) 125 Mins/Col/1987
FIPRESCI Prize, Karlovy Vary (1988)
National Awards for best direction, best screen-play and best audiography.
Kerala State Awards for best direction
Festivals: Venice, London, Karlovy Vary, La Rochelle, Nantes, Amiens, New York, Riga, Hawaii, San Francisco, Fribourg, Pesaro, Durban etc.


Mathilukal (Walls) 117 Mins/Col/1990
FIPRESCI Prize & UNICEF Film Prize, Venice; OCIC Prize, Amiens (1990).
National Awards for best direction, best audiography and best regional film.
Festivals: Venice, Toronto, London, Munich, Nantes, Hawaii, Washington, Rotterdam, Istanbul, Haifa, Fribourg, Milan, Amiens, Los Angeles, Vienna, Tehran, Pesaro, New York, Durban etc.


Vidheyan (The Servile) 112 Mins/Col/1993
FIPRESCI Prize & Special Jury mention, Singapore (1994)
INTER FILM Jury Prize, Mannheim (1994)
NETPAC Prize Rotterdam (1995)
National Awards for best actor and best regional film.
Kerala State Awards for best film, best direction, best actor and best story.
Critics' Prize for best film in the Indian Panorama, IFFI. Calcutta (1994).
Festivals: New York, Toronto, Fukuoka, London, Hawaii, Nantes, Rotterdam, Fribourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Sao Paulo, Mannheim, Brussels, Munich, Durban, Gotenberg, San Sebastian, San Francisco, Brisbane, Tehran, Pesaro, Denver etc.


"Adoor has been known, through out his career, for his bold approach to difficult and sensitive subjects. This has kept his films in a critical dialogue with traditional Indian cinema and an ever-changing Indian society" Rob Yeo, Chair, Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genre, Peck School of the Arts, UWM


Kathapurushan (Man of the Story) 107 Mins/Col/1995
FIPRESCI Prize, Bombay (1997)
National Awards for best feature film and best supporting actress.
Kerala State Awards for best director, best supporting actress and best supporting actor.
Festivals: Toronto, London, Pusan, San Francisco, Hawaii, Nantes, New York, Denver, Singapore, Pesaro, Munich, Karlovy Vary, Fribourg, Vancouver, Figuera da Foz, Innsbruck, Haifa, Los Angeles, New Port Beach, Asahikawa, Akita, Alexandria, Paris, Bradford, Birmingham, Bombay, Dhaka, Rotterdam, Madrid, Grenoble, Leon, Aix En Provence, Gucl de Loupe, Cinematheque Paris (Retro)


Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill) 92 Mins/Col/2002
FIPRESCI Prize, Mumbai Intnl film festival 2003
National Awards for Best Regional film
Festivals: Venice, Rotterdam, Goteborg, Vienna, Paris, Manosque, Nantes, Fribourg, Ljubljana, Munich, London, New York, Washington DC, Toronto, Shanghai, Fukuoka, Jerusalem and New Delhi among others.

Four Women

Naalu Pennungal (Four Women) 105 Mins/Col/2007.
National Awards for Best Director, National Film Awards, India.
Festivals:Toronto, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, Palm Sprints, Vancouver, Trinidad, London, Warsaw, Madrid, Barcelona, Manosque, Rotterdam, Munich, Hamburg, Goteborg, Ljubljana, Brussels, Vienna, Jerusalem, Dubai, Cairo, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Dhaka and Goa among others


Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime) 115 Mins/Col/2008
Kerala State awards for Best film, Best Director, Best Sound and Best Supporting Actor (female).
National Awards for best feature film and best supporting actress.
Festivals: Venice, Rotterdam, Goteborg, Vienna, Paris, Manosque, Nantes, Fribourg, Ljublijana, Munich, London, New York, Washington D.C,Toronto, Shanghai, Fukuoka, Jerusalem


In later years Adoor, in response to critics’ suggestion that his works resemble that of Satyajit Ray, said, “Had my work resembled Ray’s, he would have had nothing but disdain for me.”