Rising to prominence in the 1990s, New Zealand director Jane Campion is known as one of the contemporary cinema's most distinctive personalities. Her feature films, though varied in quality, have been united by their compelling depictions of the lives of women who are in some way outside of society's mainstream. Campion's films explore what makes these women different, and the repercussions of their refusal -- or inability -- to conform. Thanks to this subject matter, Campion has often been labeled a feminist director, a label that, while not inaccurate, fails to fully capture the dilemmas of her characters and the depth of her work.
Born in Waikenae, New Zealand, on April 30, 1954, Campion was the product of a theatrical family. Her mother, Edith Campion is an actress and writer, while her father, Richard, is a theatre and opera director. Educated at Wellington's Victoria University, where she earned a B.A. in structural arts, Campion went on to study fine arts at London's Chelsea School of Arts. Her interest in filmmaking led her to begin making short films in the late 1970s; one of these, Tissues, led to her acceptance into the Australian Film and Television School in 1981. After earning her degree in direction, she took a job with the Australian Women's Film Unit. Campion began directing short films in the early 1980s. Her short films garnered a fair amount of acclaim and were widely screened on the international film festival circuit. One of these shorts, Peel, won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the 1986 Cannes Festival.