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He was born in Mannheim. He studied Literature, Philosophy and Art History in Tübingen, Zürich and Hamburg. He started to work as a photo journalist for various daily newspapers and subsequently became a reporter for regional television current affairs programmes from 1979 on. He has been making and producing his own films since 1982. His career began with four short documentaries. Dragon Chew, his feature film debut followed in 1987, with its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. His films furtheron premiere at the festivals of Cannes, Venice, Locarno, San Sebastian and Toronto. He has won numerous national and international awards for his films. Since 1994 Schütte has taught directing at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg. In conjunction with Peter Sehr, he established and now runs the Masterclass/LAtelier in Ludwigsburg and Paris, set up in 2001.In 2005/2006 Jan Schütte taught as Visiting Professor at Harvard University in Cambridge/Massachusetts.In 2002 Jan Schütte was a member of the International Jury at the Cannes Film Festival together with Martin Scorsese, Abbas Kiarostami, Tilda Swinton and Sharon Stone. He is a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin Brandenburg and of the European Film Academy. He lives in Berlin.