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CANNES 2007 Directors’ Fortnight / FR

Elle s'appelle Sabine: Bonnaire’s tribute to her sister

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Elle s'appelle Sabine [+see also:
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by French actress Sandrine Bonnaire got a good reception at its screenings yesterday and today in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Greeted with lengthy applause, the film left the audience and press moved. Bonnaire’s first documentary about and for the actress’ autistic sister is intimate and risky.

The film opens with the image of two boxes, a metaphor for Sabine’s situation. Using long shots, Bonnaire follows her sister in the institution where she lives today. From a distance and in a discreet manner, she films a group of autistic youths, their activities, their arguments, their illnesses and the patient work of their educators. But because Sabine asks numerous questions we know Bonnaire is there. She interviews a psychiatrist who is treating her sister and the mother of another patient who talks about her difficulties in finding a care centre.

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We see video flashbacks of Sabine’s happy past. The director then narrates the story of this pretty and cheerful young woman, whose mourning and distance from her family gradually makes her turn to violence, even leading to a stay in a psychiatric hospital that she never gets over. The Sabine of today is nothing like the one of yesterday. With much finesse, Elle s'appelle Sabine always keeps the right distance.

Some fade-to-blacks hide what the voice off says or what the following scene explains, Sabine’s violence, for example. When emotion does surface it is when Bonnaire enters the frame, Sabine keeps asking her the same question: “Are you coming tomorrow?”.

A tribute to love, with this childhood sentiment of Sabine’s abnormality and her fear of being abandoned, Elle s'appelle Sabine touches us deep inside. An overwhelming portrait of a conscientious woman, who is aware of her violence and madness and locks up her dolls in a suitcase in order not to destroy or damage them.

Produced by Thomas Schmitt for Mosaique Films, Elle s'appelle Sabine was co-produced by France’s France 3, Switzerland’s TSR) and Belgium’s RTBF.

The title has not yet found an international sales agent or distributor.

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(Translated from French)

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