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CANNES 2022 Directors’ Fortnight

Alice Winocour • Director of Paris Memories

"People stopped again and again and asked if something had happened, so we had to put up signs saying ‘This is a film shoot’"

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- CANNES 2022: Inspired by the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, the French filmmaker showcases a very personal take on events

Alice Winocour • Director of Paris Memories

In Paris Memories [+see also:
film review
interview: Alice Winocour
film profile
]
, playing at the Directors’ Fortnight of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, we meet Mia (Virginie Efira), caught in a terrorist attack in a Parisian bistro and step by step finding her way back to as normal a life as possible after her traumatic experience. Apart from doing extensive research on the subject, director/writer Alice Winocour also had a direct personal connection.

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Cineuropa: What made you decide to go on this journey?
Alice Winocour: A personal thing, as my younger brother was at the Bataclan the night of the terrorist attack. I was writing him a text message and he replied that I shouldn’t write because the place had been taken over by terrorists. I wrote from my memories of that night, and also from the discussions I had the days after, and the months, with my brother. I decided not to represent the Bataclan and write about a fictional place, inspired by those memories and by the world I discovered from my brother and the people around him that survived and escaped and that I’ve met.

Your brother did survive then, it’s safe to say?
Yes – I should have clarified that, of course! And he’s been very close to the film, he’s read the script and seen the cast. He’s even visible as an extra in the film.

Did you talk to any experts in psychology and psychiatry in your preparation?
Of course. And I was told about this notion of “the diamond in the trauma”, which is the beauty that can rise in the tragedy. Behind a traumatic event are encounters between people who wouldn’t have met if they had had no tragedy, coming from different worlds and classes. For most of the time we are stuck in our respective class, and the moments it can change are really few, if ever. But in moments like these, barriers are crushed – we’re all equal in the face of tragedy. I visited the survivor associations where people who lost loved ones looked for those who were in the attack to find out if they remembered what someone did or said before they died. They tried to reconstruct the events as a collective, where the collective is part of the cure because you can’t do this yourself. Instead, people get together, are there for each other, help each other out. Showing this today, with different communities fighting each other, feels important – and is a beautiful thing.

The city of Paris is given an important part in the film, almost like its own character.
Paris is my city. I’ve never filmed in Paris before; it was difficult for me. Exactly, I wanted to show Paris as its own character, the wounded character that Paris became after the attacks and every Parisian felt. We felt the emotions when we shot, especially as the Bataclan terrorist trials occurred at the same time. We were shooting outside the restaurant where the attack in the film happens, we had all those candles there, commemorating the victims. And people stopped again and again and asked if something had happened, so we had to put up signs saying “This is a film shoot”. So reality and fiction got really close, in my head and in the city.

Was it hard to find a title? You’ve chosen Revoir Paris, or in English, Paris Memories.
It did not come to me easily, no. What I like about Revoir Paris [“Revisualise Paris”] is the meaning of looking with new eyes. I thought a lot about Wim WendersWings of Desire when I wrote, with this angel in a city that you’re no longer a human part of, which Virginie’s character becomes. She’s in a limbo of sorts, a ghost who can see the other ghosts from the attack.

Was it hard to let go of the film and have it out all on its own?
No, on the contrary. The process has been long, and I was super happy to premiere it in France, and in Cannes. My brother saw it with me yesterday for the first time. He was happy, but we will have to talk about it more together in the times to come.

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