Born in 1960, Joël Chapron first studied Russian at the Sorbonne before entering the Paris University of interpreters and translators (ESIT) and subsequently becoming a conference interpreter. At the same time he joined the Le Robert Dictionaries (1986-1992) as a sub-editor and proof-reader. He has pursued a parallel career writing sub-titles (over 80 Russian films) and translating scripts while carrying out different missions in Central Europe and the ex-USSR for SACD (the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers), the National Centre of Cinematography, Europa-Cinemas and the European Audiovisual Observatory and has also collaborated on several Franco-Russian coproductions (including Une Vie Indépendante by Vitali Kanevski and Est-Ouest by Régis Wargnier).
In 1995 Unifrance, an organisation for the promotion of French cinema abroad, appointed him their Central and Eastern European manager. For almost twenty years he has been working with the Cannes Film Festival, drawing up a list of recommended films from the ex-USSR and Eastern European countries and, since 2006, he has been doing the same for the Locarno Film Festival. He was a member of the cinema think-tank “L’Exception” (2000-2004), sponsored by Le Monde and the Paris Institute of Political Science; whose work was published in three books by Gallimard, Le Banquet imaginaire (The Imaginary Banquet), Voir ensemble (Seeing Together) and Le Cinéma sans la television (Cinema without Television). Following several years spent as a research worker at the Culture and Communications Laboratory at Avignon University, in September 2009 he was officially appointed associate professor. Joël Chapron has also written numerous articles on film-making in Eastern Europe, both for the French and foreign press –including an article for the Cannes Film Festival website (in 8 languages) tracing the difficult relationship between the latter and Russia, and A (Brief) History of Kyrgyzstan cinema (Culture et Musée N° 12, Actes Sud, January 2009; also published in English in Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema, Volume 4, Number 2). In 2011 in Russia he published a survey: The Principles and Structure governing the financing of French Cinema, in collaboration with Priscilla Gessati (ed. Azbuka-Attikus, in Russian). He was a member of the editorial staff of the new edition of the Larousse Dictionary of World Cinema (which was published in autumn 2011 by Larousse), is collaborating on a book edited by Emmanuel Ethis, a lecturer in Information and Communication Sciences at the University of Avignon and the Vaucluse, entitled Les Belles ténébreuses, une sociologie des stars au cinéma (Dark Beauties, a sociological study of cinema stars) to be published by Armand Colin, and is also writing a history of French cinema in Russia and Russian cinema in France. He has written a long article devoted to Twenty-five years in the post Soviet cinema industry (due to appear in CinémAction, a Russian cinema special, in 2013). He also lectures on Soviet Cinema (Institut Lumière, Lyon, May 2012) and Russian cinema in France and French cinema in Russia (Sorbonne, the Historians Association, “France and Russia in 19th and 20th Century Europe”, June 2012; Moscow, March 2013).
In September 2012, Joël Chapron was admitted to the French Order of Arts and Letters with the rank of Knight.