Jørgen Leth

(1937 – )

Director, journalist, author, cycling commentator. Born 14/6 1937.

Growing up in Aarhus, Leth spent a lot of time at the local velodrome, where his uncle was manager, and he became fascinated by cycling. In his youth, he was an active cyclist and table-tennis player. Leth studied literature at Aarhus University and ethnography at Copenhagen University.

In 1959, Leth found work as a journalist and critic (jazz and film), and he was also a writer of sports and travel features. He debuted as a poet in 1962 and has since published a number of essays, poetry collections and non-fiction books.

Leth made his first film in 1963, 'Stop for Bud', a documentary portrait of jazz pianist Bud Powell, and he became a central figure on the experimental documentary film scene in the 1960s.

Leth's documentaries are sensuous, personal and distinguished by the director's singular timing and rhythm. As a Danish film critic notes: "Curiosity and a sense of beauty are forces driving Leth's films. With admirable, tenacious consistency he has cultivated his fascination with surfaces."

Leth tends to highlight the mythological and epic aspects of his subjects. This is most apparent in his sports films, including 'Stars and the Water Carriers' (1974) and 'A Sunday in Hell' (1977), about two cycling races, the Giro d'Italia and the Paris-Roubaix spring classic, respectively. For a number of years, Leth also commentated the Tour de France for the Danish broadcaster TV 2.

Films like 'Life in Denmark' (1972) and '66 Scenes from America' (1982) meticulously catalogue people and places, while films such as 'Dancing Bournonville' (1979), 'I Am Alive' (1999) and 'I Am Talking to You' (2013) are lyrical artist's portraits. In 2003, Leth co-directed 'The Five Obstructions' with Lars von Trier. The film presents five remakes of Leth's 1968 classic, 'The Perfect Human'. Apart from documentaries, Leth has made a few fiction films, notably 'Haïti Express' (1983).

Leth himself is portrayed in Tómas Gislason's documentary 'Heart and Soul' (1994) and in Amir Labaki's '27 Scenes about Jørgen Leth' (2009). In 2005, Leth published the first volume of his memoirs, 'The Imperfect Human – Scenes from My Life', spurring heated debate in the Danish media. Leth has since published several more volumes of his memoirs.
Title Year Function Category
Music for Black Pigeons 2022 Direction, Screenplay DK/Documentary
I Walk 2020 Direction, Appearance, Archival footage DK/Documentary
The Butler 2019 Appearance DK/Documentary
Lyrikporten – 28 danske digtere 2016 Direction DK/Documentary
Født til filmen 2015 Appearance DK/Documentary
Den hvide mand 2014 Voiceover DK/Experimental
Sort sne 2014 Voiceover DK/Experimental
Der er ikke andet end det der er 2014 Voiceover DK/Experimental
I Am Talking To You 2013 Direction, Appearance, Screenplay DK/Documentary
Laamb 2013 Narrator DK/Documentary
The Cavalry 2013 Appearance TV series
The Erotic Human 2010 Direction, Narrator, Screenplay, Cinematographer DK/Feature
Han skal dog dø 2010 Appearance DK/Experimental
Klown 2010 Sig selv DK/Feature
ABCinema 2009 Appearance DK/Documentary
Det meste af tiden 2009 Direction, Appearance, Poems DK/Short fiction
Weightless - a Recording Session with Jakob Bro 2009 Appearance DK/Documentary
Fiction 2008 Appearance DK/Documentary
The yellow jersey 2008 Appearance DK/Documentary
Leth om Laudrup 2008 Appearance DK/Documentary
Tropical Mix 2007 Direction DK/Experimental
Monument 2007 Direction DK/Experimental
The Jørgen Leth Collection 2007 Direction Anthology
Sanselighedens pris 2007 Appearance DK/Documentary
Tavi - ånden der steg op fra havet 2006 Appearance DK/Documentary
Historien bag kameraet 2006 Appearance TV documentary
Aarhus 2005 Direction, Appearance, Script DK/Documentary
Ghosts of Cité Soleil 2005 Executive producer DK/Documentary
The five obstructions 2003 Direction, Script, Himself - Director DK/Documentary
Drømmere 2002 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Nye scener fra Amerika 2002 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Monas verden 2001 Rygestemme DK/Feature
Vejen tilbage 2001 Consultant DK/Documentary
Jeg er levende - Søren Ulrik Thomsen, digter 1999 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Haiti. Uden titel 1996 Direction, Script, Cinematography DK/Documentary
Ra-ra 1994 Direction DK/Documentary
Heart and Soul 1994 Appearance DK/Documentary
Michael Laudrup: A Football Player 1993 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Traberg 1992 Direction, Script DK/Feature
Notes on Love 1989 Direction, Script, Production, Appearance DK/Experimental
Dansk litteratur 1989 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Udvalgte ord fra tog 1989 Appearance DK/Documentary
As Far As The Eye Can See - Danish Documentaries 1989 Appearance DK/Documentary
Notater fra Kina 1987 Direction, Voiceover, Script DK/Documentary
Danish Music at the Louisiana 1987 Direction DK/Documentary
Moments of Play 1986 Direction, Voiceover, Script DK/Documentary
Haiti Express 1983 Direction, Script, Dialogue DK/Feature
Pelota 1983 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
66 scener fra Amerika 1982 Direction, Appearance DK/Documentary
Gadeartister i New York 1982 Direction DK/Documentary
Step on Silence 1981 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Peter Martins: A dancer 1979 Direction, Voiceover DK/Documentary
At danse Bournonville 1979 Direction, Voiceover DK/Documentary
Kalule 1979 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Sanct Hansaften-spil 1979 Direction TV film
En forårsdag i helvede 1977 Direction, Script, Executive producer DK/Documentary
Good and evil 1975 Direction, Script, Production, Production design, Narrator DK/Experimental
Klaus Rifbjerg 1975 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Den umulige time 1975 Direction, Voiceover, Script, Production DK/Documentary
Stjernerne og vandbærerne 1974 Direction, Voiceover, Script DK/Documentary
Eddy Merckx in the Vicinity of a Cup of Coffee 1973 Direction, Appearance, Cinematography DK/Experimental
Life in Denmark 1972 Direction, Appearance, Script, Production DK/Documentary
Chinese Ping Pong 1972 Direction, Editing DK/Documentary
The Search 1971 Direction, Appearance, Idea DK/Experimental
Without relations 1970 Direction, Script DK/Experimental
Teatret i de grønne bjerge 1970 Direction, Production, Cinematography DK/Experimental
Motion Picture 1970 Direction, Script, Production, Editing DK/Experimental
Dyrehaven, den romantiske skov 1970 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Dyrehavefilmen 1969 Direction, Cinematography DK/Experimental
Krag-filmen 1969 Direction, Cinematography DK/Experimental
Rødovrefilmen 1969 Direction DK/Experimental
The Perfect Human 1968 Direction, Narrator, Script DK/Experimental
Ofelias blomster 1968 Direction, Script DK/Experimental
Nær himlen, nær jorden 1968 Direction, Editing, Sound, Voiceover DK/Documentary
Se frem til en tryg tid 1965 Direction, Script, Editing DK/Experimental
Stop for Bud 1963 Direction, Script, Production, Editing DK/Documentary
A Conversation with Jørgen Leth Appearance Documentary