• Other gems


Claire Doyon

Claire Doyon
After a feature film devoted to her non- verbal autistic daughter (Pénélope my love, FID 2021), Claire Doyon turns to an Asperger autistic female friend for answers to some of her questions. The friend is sitting, facing the camera, in a large garden where the birds sing. Very quickly, the words spoken on both sides of the camera go well beyond the scope of the interview. For as much as welcoming speech, or even more so, what matters is to welcome a presence. Laying out the interview’s digital matter with silent Super 8 flower shots, Claire Doyon does not only succeed in offering one of the most tender, playful portraits. As seldom seen before, her short, sharp film manages to touch on the enigma of autism as a way of being in the world, and on its very own poetry. (Cyril Neyrat)

Interview with Claire Doyon

After Pénélope my Love (FID 2021), a feature film about your non-verbal daughter, this new film focuses on your friend Isabelle, who has Asperger syndrome. Why did you want to make this portrait of her? What relation is there between these two films?

The original idea was to film Isabelle in the context of the documentary about Pénélope. Pénélope being non-verbal, I thought Isabelle might share her experience of certain subjects, which my daughter could not. When filming Isabelle, I found what she said to be important. I learnt a lot about what people with autism can feel. I couldn’t choose this or that moment. I decided to make a fully separate film.

Your film mixes two types of images: digital images of the conversation with Isabelle, and images shot in Super 8. Why this choice? And how did you conceive of this association of two regimes?

I often have Super 8 with me. It’s like a differently coloured pen that I use in parallel to the shoot. I like the camera’s ergonomy, the sound, the play with chance and freedom that I feel when I use it. With Raphaël Lefèvre, the editor, we put in these images as punctuation to Isabelle’s words, to let them breathe. I also wanted to give an idea of the visual and auditive environment in which we were filming. It’s a rose garden, and Isabelle is a rose specialist. We were surrounded by flowers and birds that belong to the film.

Very quickly, Isabelle’s words go beyond the expected progression of a filmed interview. You choose to show all these divergences, these asides. Why did you choose to do this? How did the shoot happen with Isabelle?

I wanted to make a film about the particular friendship that connects us, Isabelle and me. It seemed to me that it was in what happens besides the shoot that our real connection lay. I come looking for an understanding of my daughter to a friend who has autism and who agrees to look for answers with me. But it’s hard, it’s tense. I insist a bit too much. I didn’t want to hide my presence outside the frame. We are on the same level, and according to me it’s also a film about my quest and its obsessive character. I didn’t want to cut the sentence in which she says « I don’t want you to film that ». I leave this sentence in, as it shows my own violence, and the violence inherent to cinema, which is made of insistence and which sometimes reveals itself when you reach certain limits. I leave the sentence in, but of course I cut after it. The film exists within that tension.

The film culminates with a metaphor elaborated, and then unpacked by Isabelle. How was this metaphor born? Was there a process of joint elaboration? What was Isabelle’s share in the film’s preparation?

We chose the setting in advance, prepared the questions and the subjects. A lot of things had been planned. It’s very stressful for Isabelle, and any person with autism, to face the unexpected. But when we started shooting, of course chance and the unexpected intervened in the shoot. In the film, Isabelle talks about the silk rose bush. But during the shoot, she mentioned many kinds of rose bushes. She knows a tremendous amount about roses. It’s very impressive. During the editing, we chose this rose bush because of the metaphor, and because it spills over beyond the frame, we are tired and our personalities emerge as they are.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

  • Other gems

Technical sheet

France / 2022 / Colour and B&W / 8 mm / 26’

Original version : french
Subtitles : english
Script : Claire Doyon
Photography : Pascale Granel, Claire Doyon
Editing : Raphaël Lefèvre
Sound : Olivier Schwob, Clément Chassaing
Production : Carole Chassaing (Tamara Films).
Selective Filmography : Pénélope mon amour, 2021
Arsenic, 2017
Les Allées Sombres, 2015
Pénélope, 2012
Son of a Gun, 2010
Kataï, 2009
Les Esprits, 2006
Sola Perduta Abandonnata, 2008
Les Lionceaux, 2002.