Béatrice Pollet • Director of And Yet We Were All Blind
“Women have problems making people believe them”
by Teresa Vena
- We talked to the French filmmaker about her highly sensitive and disturbing drama about a woman who experiences pregnancy denial
Béatrice Pollet is presenting her new film, And Yet We Were All Blind [+see also:
interview: Béatrice Pollet
film profile], at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, in the International Competition. In it, she tells the story of a woman who experiences pregnancy denial. The French director provides an impressive insight into a phenomenon that has so far been very poorly researched, and which is also a highly complex subject that raises important societal questions. We spoke with her about her approach to the topic.
Cineuropa: At the beginning of the film, we learn that the story is inspired by real events.
Béatrice Pollet: I read a small piece in the newspaper about a case of pregnancy denial. It was difficult for me to understand the issues involved, so I started to look into it. I then met several people who work on this pathological condition, and learned more and more about it. I also talked to women who had had this experience and collected their testimonies. From there, I created my own character. The film is not a documentary, but rather a clear work of fiction. I wanted to create a story like one in a novel, to explain how difficult the context is.
Did you have a lot of material at your disposal?
There are a few articles in the press, but on the whole, they are not very substantial. They treat the problem only superficially and not in any constructive way. Rather than explaining the complexity of it, they trigger incomprehension and fuel resentment towards these women. So I based my work mostly on oral testimonies from people from the medical and legal world.
Was it difficult to talk to the women?
It wasn’t easy. But I found some who wanted to share their experiences. Back in 2011, I contacted a French association specialising in pregnancy denial, the AFRDG, where I met some of the women. There was one among them whom I became friends with in the end. She explained her case to me in detail and told me what it was like to spend time in prison, for example.
What were the most important things you realised while working on the film?
There were several things: one concerns the way that the law deals with such cases. From the stories I heard, I learned that in such a situation, something happens that is difficult to explain and to understand. The body and the brain are disconnected. The women are in a state of shock and aren’t capable of acting in a reasonable manner. Putting them in jail seems to be the least sensible measure – separating them from their families and from the support they need from them. They shouldn't be isolated or left alone; they have to get treatment. This procedure only makes it worse for the women.
On this topic, there is a tendency for things to get mixed up. It is important to understand that women who have experienced pregnancy denial are not to be confused (or treated) with women who kill their babies. It can happen that babies die in these situations, but it is never intentional, and it is very often because the women are taken by surprise and don't get the help they need at the moment of the delivery. Of course, society also has to find a specific answer and a way to seek justice for the children, whether they die or not, but the women are not bad mothers, and nor are they criminals.
Your protagonist belongs to a certain social class – she is a lawyer. Why was this important?
The most important thing was to show that this can happen to any woman. I wanted to avoid my character being too young; she had to have a certain level of education, and she couldn't have any physical problems. I wanted her to already be a mother, too. This intensifies the fact that she really wasn't able to understand what happened, even though she has prior experience with giving birth. Then, her being a lawyer enabled me to show that even though she knew very well what her actions implied, she was not able to prevent them. She knows what the legal procedure is but still can't react; she is shocked by the questions, and she can't answer them. At the end, when she is finally able to go home and leave the prison, the lawyer in her comes back, and she is able to work together with her best friend on her defence. This is a kind of catharsis for her. What is also essential to understand is that each woman and each case of pregnancy denial is unique.
Why did you choose such a sober aesthetic and a linear narrative for the film?
The topic is complex enough in itself. I wanted to do justice to these women. There had to be room for doubt, but in the end, I wanted to show that we, as a society, should be able to start believing these women. This is something women are confronted with – they have problems making people believe them.
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