Practice English Speaking&Listening with: In Conversation With Alice Diop (Interview)

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Transparency doesn't exist

and nor does objectivity.

There's always someone filming

otherwise it'd be a surveillance camera.

The objectivity that people talk about

with 'direct cinema' and documentaries

doesn't exist

and I find the idea that it does harmful.

Effectively, it's about a democratisation

of knowledge, which passes through

a cinematographic emotion

and that's what seemed to me to be

perfectly useful and interesting.

I think that documentary filmmaking,

contrary to what people think, is a type of film

which continually invents its own form.

Documentaries are always coming about in new ways:

it's a very creative type of filmmaking

and that's another thing that drew me to them.

It was important for us that

people would be able to put a face

to those that are usually faceless.

Normally when we talk about the refugee crisis

even the images are of an unidentified,

anonymous mass, where you wouldn't be able to spot anyone.

So the idea of the film was to counter

those images with a singular experience,

a singular story, a singular face.

And it was important that these people be named,

so in the film they're all named. They're

named by the doctor.

Naming means recognising them. Naming is important.

People come to the clinic primarily

for tummy aches, sleeping problems,

headaches... Little words to describe banal physical symptoms.

Because it's much easier for them to talk about their physical pain

than to speak of a more existential pain.

So the film uses the apparent banality

of their words... of the doctors' diagnoses and discussion

but deep down they're talking about something else:

something that cannot be named.

Once they leave the room

they're sent back to their violence,

to their solitude and to their distress.

And, as a result, finishing the film

with a woman who breaks down in front of our eyes,

forcing me to abandon the camera,

because it's me that steps into the frame

to comfort her...

That says a lot about both the limits of cinema

in situations like these, and it also says

a lot about how necessary care is,

because, at first, at least there's the camera,

but then it's just one woman caring for another:

one human being confronted by another.

So I think that's another reason why the final scene is important...

Because when this woman cries, she's crying for all the people that have come before

It's more than just a personal cry:

it's a cry that betrays the violence

that these women and men have had to suffer.

And it was very hard to stop filming

because it was like sending them back to anonymity.

This camera had put them in the picture, looked at them

and bore witness to their reality

And I think the way the camera looked at them was as therapeutic

as what the doctor was able to do for them.

France has these great principles; these extremely humanist values

The country of Human Rights; France, the land of asylum.

The land of asylum in a room that looks like that

in a public hospital... Frankly, it's painful.

At some point, France has got to ask itself some questions...

'Do you get a thrill playing Simon?'

'Yeah, yeah, yeah, being on stage is thrilling...

As soon as you're on stage, that's it.

You're free.'

'That's how you feel?' 'You're free...happy.

Nothing else matters. Playing a character is wonderful'

What happened in November, or even January 2015...

the attacks... Through the violence,

you suddenly realise how deeply fractured French society is

and who told the story of this fracture?

It wasn't told, because those that could have told the story aren't allowed to produce

images and stories. Or, at least, there's very few of us.

I think that French cinema is white:

the bodies you see, those that film,

those whose stories are told

are those of white people who live in the centre.

And I think that's what the French film industry needs to work on:

in integrating other gazes, other stories, other journeys...

go and look at society's margins. So that's why I think that it's

important to go out and look at real life, in order to interrogate reality.

and to put it on display so that society can see its mirror image.

And so maybe that's what I see as the common thread in my film work.

The Description of In Conversation With Alice Diop (Interview)