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Claire Doyon

In a voice-over, Claire Doyon is reading a text by Silvia Federici. The text elaborates on the role of psychology in the preservation of the patriarchal system and of capitalism; it analyses the methods used by psychologists to promote adaptation to social structures rather than their dismantling. The arguments are illustrated on screen, first by shots of assembly lines and menial tasks being performed. But very soon, the shots overpower the words: images of freed bodies, of a young woman. This is Penelope, the director’s daughter, on the autism spectrum, who provides a visual escape from the implacable realities that fill our ears.

Nathan Letoré

The film is built around a voiceover reading a text by Silvia Federici on the role of psychology in capitalist mistreatment. How did you come across this text?

I came across Silvia Federici through her book Caliban and the Witch about ten years ago, when I took an interest in alternative healing practices. I was struck by the world of women’s practices she describes, those systems of knowledge which formed the basis of women’s power in pre-capitalist Europe. The streamlining of labor required the eradication of these practices. Magic suddenly seemed like an illicit form of power. There was a belief that certain days were more suited to working than others, and that sometimes it was better to avoid all initiative and to stay home. We can easily understand why capitalism didn’t support these practices. 

Then two treasured friends, authors and artists Carla Bottiglieri and Jesal Kapadia, one echoing the other, helped me to gather together elements that often seemed to me unrelated or constrictive. They reminded me of the necessity of an ethical revolt: avoiding the process that lets the “enemy” enter us, the enemy being the way in which our minds can assimilate the idea of separating and hierarchizing humans, as shaped by education and by institutional structures, for example. 

Jesal Kapadia invited us to Parma in 2019 to meet Silvia Federici, to discuss her research on the valuation of the work of women and mothers. We were part of a group of women discussing the proof of Beyond the Periphery of the Skin by Silvia Federici. The encounter was an incredible gift. 

You filmed, in Super 8, both work practices and liberated, dancing bodies… How did you choose these motifs and how did you organize the shooting? 

I developed a ritual with Super 8. I don’t film my daily life but sometimes, for a few days at a time, I film what’s around me, and then I leave the images aside. With Super 8, I feel as if the images become loaded with a kind of physicality. They’re like stones that reassure me, ready traces lying at the bottom of a well. Silvia Federici’s text made me want to search for images in this sort of a library, especially images based on movement: old-fashioned gestures in a children’s ritornello for example, or work gestures of a more repetitive kind. Fred Piet, the film’s editor, had the idea of creating loops with these images, so that their rhythm would merge with that of the text. 

At first glance, the title seems only distantly related to the film’s content. What made you choose this title?

I wanted to continue threading together what my daughter Pénélope, who has autism, makes me do, think and the shifts she triggers in me. The documentary Pénélope mon amour took a very intimate turn. With Point virgule [Semicolon], I wanted to focus on behavior, inspired by the strong and radical words of Silvia Federici. The semicolon is a way of saying that this field of political imagination has only just begun.  

A certain female figure appears regularly in the film: your daughter Pénélope, to whom you have dedicated several films (Pénélope mon amour, FIDMarseille 2021). Could you tell us about her presence in this film, and how it relates to Federici’s text? 

Pénélope’s gestures are beyond her control, so she will never be able to be part of the “restructured economy”. Her hands elude any attempts to control them. They dance, inventing an imaginary world. I want to celebrate this dance and find a space for it: not a lesser space, rather a poetic one that we perhaps no longer have access to, which needs to be seen and named differently. 

That said, it’s important that Pénélope learn everyday gestures, which are also repetitive and linked to subsistence, but different from the alienating gestures of standardized work. Fernand Deligny would say that they’re necessary gestures, and part of our customs.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

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Technical sheet

France / 2023 / 11’

Rights holder
Claire Doyon