• French Competition



David Yon

In a mineral black and white that breaks with the usual blue sky of Marseilles, Ne me guéris jamais summons three anonymous figures, two men and a woman, whose lives it exposes and intertwines through fragments of existences and stories. The film tells us about the way these three people ward off and overcome an unfavourable fate (blindness, imprisonment), or simply the throes of life (mourning). David Yon sets an egalitarian device in which, from the very first sequences, his questioning and filmmaking meet the protagonists’ practices. Then the film introduces a community of artists and becomes a haven for this community. Turning the creative gesture into a vehicle for resistance and reunion, it brings together their musical, cinematographic, and literary creations, while emphasizing their efforts to express themselves. Their creations are not meant to edify anyone, they are merely formulas, stories, beliefs through which four individuals exist, cope, rejoice and escape. Because idiosyncrasies are singularities that really come to life when captured in a portrait, the mise-en-scène turns trial and error into a method, like the blind man’s attempts at writing, or his hand on his friends’ face as he discovers his features, like a metaphor for the documentary gesture. From this arise three portraits, delicately depicted, that channel a sweet melancholy devoid of pathos, and an optimism without bliss. Then, near at hand or at gaze, what are to be gleaned are words and images that draw a generous poetics of the other.

Claire Lasolle

What was your ambition regarding Marseille with Ne me guéris jamais, after shooting Les Oiseaux d’Arabie (2009) and La Nuit et l’enfant (2015) in Algeria ? 

Moving into Marseille in 2011, I found something here that I’d already been attracted to in Algeria. I enjoyed seeing the public space vulnerable to the hazards of life and the passing of time, constantly reclaimed by the inhabitants. Over the last few years, however, I witnessed a change in the city, which tends to be cleaned of its rough edges in order to be established as a tourist destination. Are the people who live here expected to become what they aren’t ? One night, in a dream, I found myself saying the words « Never cure me » (« Ne me guéris jamais »). They resonated with those of critic Serge Daney, which I’d just heard, in which he discusses the advent of computer-generated images. He explained that this new technology pushed us towards a smoothened image , in which we could erase the rougher edges and everything we refused to see. He concluded with the following words, that stuck with me : « Everyone will die cured ». I wished to use this sentence, « Never cure me », as the title of the film I was working on. To me, in the context of this mutating city, it asserts the existence of very singular manners of being in interaction with the world. 

All three of the protagonists share a specific connection to this city linked to their chosen means of artistic expression (camerawork, writing, singing). How did you come to meet them, and invite them into the film ? 

When my mother’s parents died, I lost a bit of home with them. I had nowhere to take refuge anymore. As I started working on this film, I was inhabited by the following questions : Where is home ? What crosses time ? I met people through this perspective, and I realized that the people I wished to portray had also lost or left a home. I met Ouahib in the Polygone étoilé, a community cinema, along with friends that helped me put the movie together. I met Rosalie via a common friend, and approached Pierre as he was walking down a street near my house. 

Ouahib Mortada, who is also a filmmaker, shot some colour sequences. Did you originally intend to incorporate them in the film ? What is their status ? 

Ouahib lives in the Arenc district, which is in the midst of large-scale renovation. When he moved there, he had a seaview. Over time, tower blocks and company headquarters were built across from his windows. One of these buildings has a big sign that says « Shipping the Future ». Ouahib rather feels like he’s being deprived of his future. He feels like he will have to leave. Where to, though ? For years now, he’s been filming the area’s transformations from his balcony with his mini-DV camera, in order to create something like a neighbourhood memory. I wished to incorporate his images in the film in order to establish a dialogue between our shots. Our approaches to camerawork are quite distinct : he shoots camera-in-hand, in a very instinctive and choreographic manner, while I shoot with a floor-mounted camera with a focus on framing and lighting compositions. 

Why did you chose to shoot in black & white ?

One of the dimensions touched upon in the film revolves around perception. What is the perception of a person in exile ? What is the perception of a person who’s lost the ability to see ? There are several moments in the film where the viewers find themselves in the dark, guided only by sound. I had a hunch that we should reduce the visible elements in order to bring the film towards a form of refinement and cleansing. I also wished to capture Marseille’s white light. Finally, I wanted the colour in Ouahib’s videos to appear from the black & white. 

Ne me guéris jamais follows the inner quests of the trio, halfway between the city’s reality and their own imagination. How did you design this narrative ?

My work began as a research over the course of which I recorded my protagonists, identified some set locations and collected documentation. During shooting, I suggested a number of situation plays in which the protagonists’ interactions with a location were informed by the elements which were their basis of work : an action, a topic, a set of photographs or texts. Whe the shooting begins, they truly appropriate these elements, and the unexpected occurs. I wanted for the shooting to be an experimental moment, where something was felt in the present tense : and I wanted the camera to document this event. 

Can the movie be described as a political essay on Marseille’s evolution, in relation to its inhabitants and the ongoing gentrification process ? 

Economic pressure within the city has risen, and our precarious balances have become more unstable still. Simultaneously, the urban environment has been fragmented by large-scale renovation, and the thin gaps from whence a spontaneous social life can blossom are getting scarcer. I remember these Arab women who’d gather every evening to sit in a circle on cardboard boxes in the grass above the Jules Guesde square. I wished to shoot a scene there before this location was swallowed by the surrounding construction sites. Ouahib was meant to film the trees that had just been cut down to facilitate the construction. In this very location, refugees had built their makeshift shelters. I was aware that the construction would push them out of one the last green space in the heart of town. As I was filming the ground beneath them, a man came up to me. He did not wish to be filmed, but he sought to testify to the situation. Therefore, I filmed Ouahib’s face as he listened to what the man had to say ; and at some point, in response to Ouahib’s question, the man replied : «God is the distance between us. What you see as empty is actually full ». And with those words, he answered the questions that were bugging me when I began working on this film : that which crosses time is the relationship

Interview by Olivier Pierre

  • French Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2023 / 66’

Rights holder
Carine Chichkowsky