Mary Jimenez, Bénédicte Liénard • Directors of By the Name of Tania
"The film was born out of our relationship with reality and it took its own form"
- We met with Mary Jimenez and Bénédicte Liénard, the authors and directors of By the Name of Tania which is released in Belgium on Wednesday
After Rising Voices [+see also:
film profile] and Sobre las brasas, Mary Jimenez and Bénédicte Liénard are now giving us By the Name of Tania [+see also:
interview: Mary Jimenez, Bénédicte Lié…
film profile], a hybrid and unclassifiable film which is released in Belgium on Wednesday via MOOOV. They sat down with us to discuss their work.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Bénédicte Liénard: We met a former prospector in Peru. At 15 years of age, he was a prisoner and he said to himself one morning: "If I don’t leave today, I’m going to die". He’d met a woman in a brothel who he’d fallen in love with, and he went looking for her, asking her to run away with him, but she’d refused because she had a debt to pay.
We were very moved by this story and we headed off into the gold-bearing zones where we met lots of women in the region’s brothels.
We heard talk of a policeman known to have managed to save mining girls from prostitution. We met with him and managed to establish a relationship of trust with him. By the end of the week, he’d handed over one of his most precious treasures to us: a USB device containing the testimonies of the girls he’d managed to rescue.
These accounts took us to the very heart of the world of exploitation and the process which sees young girls transformed into slaves. We decided to use these stories to tell one big story. That’s how Tania came about.
So, Tania is a composite character who embodies these voiceless, faceless women?
Mary Jimenez: She’s a fictitious character who portrays in a highly structured fashion - as dictated by our story - the process by which a slave is produced. The need to earn money, exile, their alienation from their loved ones, the confiscation of their identity documents, prostitution, impossible debts to repay… But the question was how we could enrich this character, this canvass.
We held a number of casting calls. Crucially, we visited a shelter for teenagers who were mostly victims of sexual violence. Some of these girls really tried to seduce us. Not Lydia. She’d been raped by her stepfather and had a real dignity about her. It made her very interesting; the dark side of her past was written all over her face.
She, herself, was very aware of the fact that she would be playing this part in the name of all the others. She didn’t have any particular calling to be an actress; she committed herself because she wanted to defend a cause. It was a really interesting set-up for us. And it’s as true as it could possibly be. An actress would never have been able to play the part like that.
We really like working without knowing. It’s the polar opposite of a film with a strict storyline and editing process, where filming consists of carrying out what’s already been decided on paper. For our part, we carry out in depth research, making use of the tools afforded by fiction, but we like not knowing. We create situations and we allow them to develop.
The film crosses the divide between documentary and fiction.
MJ: When we make a film, we start with the root. From this root, there grows a tree, which is entirely unknown to us and which doesn’t conform to any given norm. We approach the matter from a different angle. We don’t ask ourselves whether we’re going to make a fiction film or a documentary.
The film was born out of our relationship with reality, out of the encounters we’ve had, and it took its own form. The only question we really ask ourselves is who we’re going to ask for money. That’s where the real divide lies!
BL: By the Name of Tania really allowed us to find a narrative formula that we found interesting. As Mary often says, this isn’t a film by Bénédicte and Mary, but rather by a third entity born out of our meeting, and we should really include our cinematographer Virginie Surdej in this union. Ultimately, this communal creation provided us with something of a new language.
We’ve found a cinematic path which belongs to us, where we feel free and wonderful. For my part, I’ve been damaged by the industry. It pigeon-holes us and sets parameters which aren’t at all suited to film. I actually feel that fiction is in a bit of a rut; it doesn’t give directors room to transform the filmmaking process into a genuinely creative one. Film isn’t about screenplays; it’s about a presence in the world at a given time.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.