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The first cry

With Gilles De Maistre

Cov

 

How did the idea of a documentary on “the first cry”?

Being able to film a birth is a huge gift that parents make to you. Having the good fortune to witness this moment of grace, the bloom of life, changes you forever, every time. For a series of TV documentaries, I spent two shocking years in a delivery room in Paris. I had filmed a hundred births there, all different, but all in the same hospital. The emotional, human power of every birth, was such that I wanted to extend this magic elsewhere. Therefore, I had the idea to make this film on the same subject, imagining that Earth was the delivery room. The aim was twofold: transmitting to the viewer the torrent of emotions that causes the birth of a “little man” and trying to tell the today people life through this prism.

How long did it take you to realize it?

Three years, but the search for women and the shots were long. I shoot alone or with a sound engineer. We are very far from the big film productions with a hundred and fifty people on set. Here, it is to catch life. Knowing how to decipher the gestures and looks. I wanted the viewer enters the intimacy of the protagonists, who he accustomed to their way of being in order to feel close to their emotions. My look becomes the eye of the audience: now fixes a woman, it sticks to a retail or attends from a distance. I was not afraid to make foregrounds. I wanted to create an immediate proximity between the viewer and women. The camera gives him the feeling of being witness to what he sees, he’s an integral part of the scene that is taking place. I’ve never tried to make it forget, nor let me forget in the filming. I wanted, instead, mix it, integrate it, associate it to the scene. I arrived on average fifteen days before the expected date of delivery. That gave me the time to get acquainted with the women, their environment, their husbands, to make them understand how I worked. Above all, this has allowed me to shoot each of them before the birth. This was a way for me to present them to the viewer, to show him their universe, their daily life. I wanted that the viewer were awaiting the birth just like me. Every time it’s a different story, we don’t know the end.

Immagine

What would be its social purpose?

It’s a picture of the world today. An emotional snapshot, without judgment or moral lessons, pointing to a number of questions: social, economic and right to health inequalities. Ecology, the contradictions between nature and technical progress excesses. Failures and wins of science. Yes, observing the birth, the gush of life on earth allows you to wonder about these big problems. But there is also an attempt to talk about love, to give each a mirror to show how much we are similar to our babies, that we all have the same pains, the same tears, the same laughter… In poor countries, they are often to terms with the deaths of women and babies. In Nigeria, one in three children doesn’t exceed the first year of life. In France, we check births, and pregnancy is managed as if it were a disease. I think that seeing the film, many women will reflect, without wanting to do the same thing: the approach of the American Vanessa, Yukiko the Japanese or Mexican Pilar who gave birth with the dolphins. Natural childbirth, which I address in the film, refers us to what we have done in our lives, to the world we will leave to our children, to what it means to be a woman, a mother. I don’t want to pass a message. I would love to touch people for a while.

“I think the duty of doctors is to give health to their patients, the duty of the singer to sing. The duty of the journalist is to write what this journalist sees in the reality” — quote Anna Politkovskaya: Is it just the reality what we see today through journalism?

By myself, in Somalia, I filmed the exodus of refugees. They fled from the civil war, on foot. They marched for weeks. It was before the intervention of the Americans, before the arrival of journalists in 1990. A woman was carrying her child in her arms, skin and bones, the last to be still alive. His eight brothers and sisters had died on the way. He was three years and it seemed he had one. He died when his mother had just found a refuge in a field. She had left me to film her for a few days. Indifferent. Why film her? For whom? I was filming her for Art. I was thirty three and eight years of great reportage behind. I had already confronted with the horror, in Colombia, in Mozambique, in Cambodia, in the four corners of the world.

You never get used to it. Every time we find this dizziness, this feeling of being overcome, overwhelmed by reality. The feeling of being strangers to the world, to evolve in the middle of a nightmare. You hold onto your job as you can, because we believe that this testimony is ridiculous, that there is too much to do, too much to say. We note, powerless, and then we just have to assemble our own film, macabre budget. We meet our dear ones and life takes over again as you can never really communicate the images that haunt us, never say everything we have seen, heard or experienced. These realities are beyond words, beyond the showable. In the eyes of this mother who didn’t want to leave his died son, we could read some indifference. Her pain was, even for her, beyond what she could say or do.

Immagine 2

How do you manage your human sensibility in places where children are at war?

From India to El Salvador, from Cambodia to Mozambique, always the same refugee camps, the same roadblocks. The infamous hotels, corruption, nepotism, poverty of the landless, of the malnourished children, of the crumbled families. And always, these journalists locked on to the third world, which testify to the same horrors tirelessly and nothing ever changes anyway. Why risk your freedom, physical and mental health and sometimes your life? While many of them have families waiting for them… They leave again as a Marin sets sail, because it’s in their blood. The great reporters are looking for some images, some testimonials. They love life by experience, and beyond the tears to which they are witnesses, they love the urgency of living these people, these oversized sets, all this human tissue and the swarm of initiatives to achieve the next day. Therefore, as deep as their attachment to these countries may be, reporters know they don’t and won’t never be part of it. They’ll leave again and will remain strangers.

A question of way of life, way of thinking. Whatever their abilities to adapt are, they always feel out of place. Rejected out of the conflict, out of the limits of the drama. Sharing ends with the witness they report.

The well versed too can’t overcome so well these contradictions. Sooner or later, they ask themselves what they’re doing there, what drives them, what helps them to live in all these back and forth from one extreme to the other. The fun of the action, the fascination with the emptiness, the passion to see and understand… and then, the vocation that comes down on you like a shawl and leaves you no choice.

Do you think there is a “dernier cri”?

I’m actually working on a film about death, but it is complicated. People don’t have the necessary wish to see this kind of movie… but I’ll make it!

The memory of your childhood you’re most fond of:

My father frequently traveling for business… When I was a child I think I have always said to myself that something extraordinary was happening in the “other coast”.

Thanks

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