Jørgen Leth was born 1937 in Århus, Denmark. He studied literature and anthropology in Aarhus and Copenhagen and was a cultural critic (jazz, theatre, film) for leading Danish newspapers from 1959 to 1968. His interest in Polish anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski had a profound influence on his work. He travelled in Africa (1961), South America and India (1966) and Southeast Asia (1970–71). His first book was published in 1962 and he has written 10 volumes of poetry and eight non-fiction books. He made his first film in 1963 and has since made 40 more, many distributed worldwide. His most acclaimed is a 1967 short, The Perfect Human, which also featured in the 2003 film The Five Obstructions made by Leth and Lars von Trier. Leth's sports documentaries bring an epic, almost mythic, dimension to the field, as seen in Stars and Watercarriers/Stjernerne og Vandbærerne (1973) and A Sunday in Hell/En forårsdag i helvede (1977).
He has been a creative consultant for the Danish Film Institute (1971–73, 1975–77) as well as chairman of the Institute's board (1977–82). He has also been a professor at the Danish National Film School in Copenhagen, at the State Studiocenter in Oslo and has lectured at UCLA, Berkeley, Harvard and other American universities.
Leth covered the Tour de France for Denmark's TV 2 from 1988 until 2005 as the expert commentator in partnership with journalist Jørn Mader. In 1999, he was appointed Danish honorary consul in Haiti.
He has lived in Jacmel, Haiti since 1991.
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