Berkeley film curator honored by nations of France and Georgia

It’s a big week for Susan Oxtoby, senior film curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Yesterday, she received the French Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters at a ceremony in San Francisco, and next Tuesday, in Washington, D.C., she will be awarded a Medal of Honor by the Republic of Georgia.

Susan Oxtoby, senior film curator at UC Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, wears the French Chevalier she received yesterday from the French government for her work celebrating French-language films.

Susan Oxtoby, senior film curator at UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive, wears the French Chevalier she received yesterday from the French government for her work celebrating French-language films.

Each honor comes to Oxtoby, who has been at the film archive since 2005, for bringing special attention to film-making important to that country.

“France is honored to thank you for the exemplary work you have accomplished in presenting French, Francophone and European cinema,” said Pauline Carmona, French consul general in San Francisco, during yesterday’s presentation. “You count among those who have achieved the most to further mutual understanding of the cultures of both countries.”

A Canadian native who grew up in New England, Oxtoby spent 35 years in Toronto as a film distributor, programmer and curator before coming to work at the film archive. In the past decade, she’s helped Bay Area film fans celebrate the work of more than a dozen well-loved French-language directors and actors, producing programs on such directors as Jacques Tati, Agnès Varda and Jean-Luc Godard, and actors such as Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jeanne Moreau.

At the film archive, Oxtoby also helped organize “Discovering Georgian Cinema” — 3½ years in the making — a massive first-of-its-kind traveling exhibition surveying more than a century of Georgian film. Her collaborator on the project, the late Jytte Jensen, a film curator with The Museum of Modern Art in New York, will also receive the Georgian Medal of Honor, posthumously.

The daughter of well-traveled cinephile academics, Oxtoby received an undergraduate degree in English and cinema studies from the University of Toronto and another in media studies from Ryerson University.

Oxtoby has twice been appointed to serve five-year terms on the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board, most recently in 2010, and in 2011 she received a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to study, research and make contacts within the field of Soviet Georgian cinema.