Co-Founders and Co-Presidents of Sony Pictures Classics M. Barker & T. Bernard and Director of Columbia University Institute for African Studies M. Diouf to Receive French Legion of Honor

September 10, 2014 | By French Culture

New York, September 10, 2014—Mr. Michael Barker and Mr. Tom Bernard, Co-Founders and Co-Presidents of Sony Pictures Classics, and Professor Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies and History and Director of Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies, will be awarded Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, in a triple decoration ceremony on September 22 in New York.

Over the past 30 years, art house moguls Barker and Bernard have led Sony Pictures Classics to become the number one French film distributor in America and demonstrate a longstanding commitment to promoting French directors including François Truffaut, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Bertrand Blier, Louis Malle, Eric Rohmer, encouraging French cinema and cultural diplomacy in the United States.

Diouf plays an essential role in defining African studies in the United States as co-founder and leader of the Joint African Studies Program at Columbia University, a transatlantic initiative between Columbia, Paris I, and Sciences Po that enables French and American students to earn a Dual Certificate from both Columbia and Paris I and combines diverse approaches to African studies to create a unique international education.

French Minister Laurent Fabius stated, “Professor Diouf, Mr. Barker, and Mr. Bernard are the real figures in our world who are making crucial connections between French and American cultures, in vastly different ways: Mr. Barker and Mr. Bernard, by transporting the essence of France to screens across America, and Professor Diouf, by engaging students from Paris, New York, and around the world to converse, discuss, and debate history and the present. These individuals are breaking down the barriers of national borders and creating bridges between intellectual and cultural spheres while also enriching a trans-continental cultural dialogue.”

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, Co-Presidents and Co-Founders of Sony Pictures Classics, have distributed (and produced), independent movies over the past 30 years. Previously both were executives at United Artists (1980-1983) and went on to co-found Orion Classics (1983-1991) and Sony Pictures Classics. Over the span of their careers, Barker’s and Bernard’s films have received 140 Academy Award® nominations including several for Best Picture: AMOUR by Michael Haneke; Woody Allen’s most successful film of all time, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS; AN EDUCATION by Lone Scherfig; CAPOTE by Bennett Miller, for which Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Academy Award® for Best Actor; CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON by Ang Lee, recognized as the highest grossing foreign film of all time in North America; and HOWARDS END by James Ivory.  Barker and Bernard have collaborated with some of the world’s finest filmmakers including Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh, Louis Malle, and Zhang Yimou, all of whom they’ve worked with on multiple occasions, as well as Robert Altman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Suzanne Bier, Ingmar Bergman, and others.

Mamadou Diouf holds a Ph.D. from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Before joining the faculty at Columbia University, he was the Charles D. Moody Jr. Collegiate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Michigan, from 2000 to 2007. Before that, he was Head of the Research, Information, and Documentation Department of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and faculty member of the History Department of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. For more than twenty years, Mr. Diouf has fundamentally changed the way African history and African studies are approached. Examining the production of knowledge across times, geography, and media, both in colonial and postcolonial Africa, his interdisciplinary method lead him to investigate the urban, political, social, and religious aspects of African societies in an intensely innovative way. A prominent scholar, he has disseminated his expertise worldwide and has become a key player in the academic relationships between French, American and African universities.

The Legion of Honor was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to reward exceptional accomplishments and great services rendered to France. It is awarded based on a decision by the French President.

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