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CANNES 2022 Special screenings

Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon • Directors of Riposte féministe

“In our movie, witches don’t exist”

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- CANNES 2022: We talked to the directors behind the documentary, who accompany a feminist collective fighting the battle of words all over France

Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon  • Directors of Riposte féministe

In Riposte féministe [+see also:
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interview: Marie Perennès and Simon De…
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, French directorial duo Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon accompanies a feminist ‘collage’ collective, fighting the battle of words all over France. Even at the Cannes Film Festival, reminding people about murdered women on the red carpet before the screening of Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider [+see also:
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.

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Cineuropa: When you decide to film people who are that committed to a specific cause, do they expect you to join in?
Simon Depardon:
It took us two years to reach them. Marie did a great job establishing this trust. Here at the festival, it was the first time they saw the film. We were so stressed, because it’s complicated when you make a documentary like this one and then show it to the people who are in it. It was important not to interrupt, not to edit too much. Just let them speak in each of these towns. We certainly didn’t want to change the way they think or feel. It was all about keeping the spirit of this movement intact. We didn’t want to sit them down in front of the camera and ask them questions.

Sure, but you make things harder for yourselves this way. How do you learn to disappear?
Marie Perennès:
Before, they would ask us about the film. It was like going through all the points in the contract. Later, we just tried to keep our team very small. There were mostly the two of us, like in Amiens, during the “white march” [in honour of the victim killed by her partner]. Also, sometimes we would film for a few hours straight. After a while, people forget you are there.

SD: We belong to that school of documentary that encourages you to vanish. You are not there. Even your sound engineer should never look at the protagonist.

What they do is so… temporary. “We put it up and then it’s already gone.” Logically, it doesn’t make sense.
SD:
That’s why we needed to make a film about it. It will keep track of their words. More than the movement itself, we wanted to film these people, this generation who actually tries to change things. It’s not just about the collages: it’s about them. These girls who came to the festival, they are really exceptional. They are fighting every day, knowing they won’t see the results anytime soon.

Why do you follow them around different places? Someone says in the film that it feels good, knowing there are other women out there. In a way, that’s exactly what you do here.
MP:
There are more than 200 collectives in France. We certainly didn’t want to just stay in Paris, we wanted to show the whole country, do this road trip. Meet all these people fighting against femicide or violence. The idea was to show that young people in France are not apolitical, as some claim…

SD: …or that they don’t vote for Marine Le Pen…

MP: …or that they are really battling for something. There is hope in these small towns as well. This idea of sorority, this joy of being together, is very strong. We wanted to reflect it. People, when they see this movie, maybe they will think: “If she is engaging in that fight, maybe I can do it as well?” It’s really easy, in a way, to find your own group now.

SD: That’s the best thing about this movie – we will go everywhere we have filmed, hoping to start debates. Everyone can be affected by these issues, so we have to talk about them. Only then we will find a solution. There are so many women, hundreds of them, dying every year in this country alone.

When you see these sentences on the walls, there is something poetic about them.
SD:
They do have a sense of phrasing. These sentences can’t be long – you would be caught by the cops! It’s funny because they do care about it a lot. They use our language in a new way. They also work a lot and are so well organized! We saw it when they stepped onto the red carpet and suddenly, it was this whole big event. It was so impressive to see.

MP: What they do is political. But even when it’s political, there is joy in it and so many different feelings. That’s the beauty of this movement.

SD: There is anger there, too.

MP: Or fear. Of being out in the streets at night.

SD: Still, we didn’t want to scare anyone away. Some say this movie is violent, I personally don’t think so, but this is the question: How can a movement be violent without being too violent? They talk a lot about that. We kept this scene of them being harassed, because I learnt how hard it is to be a girl at night. We loved how she responded to this man.

Were there any trade secrets they didn’t want to share?
SD:
There are so many secrets in feminism. There is this image of a witch, working alone in the dark, but in our movie, witches don’t exist. These are normal people. It’s your daughter, your cousin.

MP: They laugh about these comparisons. We also wanted to show that what they do is… cool. It’s cool to be a feminist. Even when you are a guy. That’s one of the reasons why we didn’t want to have “leaders” in this film. We didn’t want to create one heroine to represent it all. The idea was to meet different young feminists.

SD: And to encourage others to join them!

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