The life of French filmmaker Audrey Divan was forever changed when her second film, Happening, won the top award at the Venice International Film Festival exactly one month ago. In the four weeks since then, Couch has won more awards, secured a North American distributor for IFC Films and FilmNation, and aims to represent France at the 2022 Oscars.
The Golden Lion’s victory “Happening” surprised many simply because of the loud competition in which the likes of Jane Campion and Paolo Sorrentino participated. It was a subtle film about a college student in France in the 1960s trying to terminate an unexpected pregnancy, starring an unknown relative, Anamaria Vartholomew. And yet he was voted unanimous choice for the prestigious prize by an authoritative jury that included Parasite director Bong Joon Ho and Nomad Country director Chloe Zhao.
“We really didn’t expect anything. There were so many talented people. We were really happy and saddened, ”Divan said. “I had so many feelings at the same time. I was thinking about the film. I thought about my actress, I knew that this would change everything for her. I thought about (author) Annie Erno because this is a true story, and this is her story. And my last thought was that this topic was on everyone’s mind. “
It has been a landmark year for women filmmakers in France. Earlier this year, Giulia Ducourneau became the second woman to ever win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for her insane family horror body horror drama Titan. Ducourneau’s film is also nominated for the French Academy Award, which will be decided on Tuesday. France last selected a female Oscar in 2015 with Denise Gamze Erguven’s Mustang.
“I think it says something really strong about the industry as a whole. Basically what happened is that they allowed more women to be in films, ”Divan said. “And this is a mathematical question: if you allow more women to make films, of course, they will be rewarded. But you have to look carefully at the very beginning, at the moment when the industry gives you money to make your film. “
Couch didn’t actually take a camera until she was 30. Before becoming a director, she studied journalism and political science, wrote novels and screenplays. Her first feature film, Lost, was released in 2019.
“Now I feel like I’m ready for what I want to do because I’ve had so many different experiences,” Divan said. “I’m finally ready for this.”
Moving on was not easy to make, despite the accolades for the novel Erno, who ran for the Pulitzer Race. Couch set out to do something clear and honest about a less privileged young woman desperate to continue her education, and the reality of abortion in the back streets.
Although the film is set in the 60s, she is well aware that it is still relevant. She was writing a film with Poland at heart. Then, on the way to Venice with the finished film, she read about what was happening in Texas.
“I made this film because of what it means to me. I love making films not to answer, but to ask questions, ”Divan said. “I firmly believe that the film is somehow relevant to the moment, and we have a lot to discuss and share.”
She was already encouraged by the conversations and reactions to the play. According to her, recently in Paris, a young student told her that he was against abortion, but after watching her film, he was no longer sure about it.
“Art matters and can open discussion,” Divan said. “Venice was good because the jury unanimously appreciated the film and understood it. But that means something, because they were of different genders, ages, and different cultures. It was one of the first times I thought that maybe we could share this with a lot of different people. “
Divan believes that if her film is presented at the Academy Awards, which will represent France, it will only help broaden her horizons. But she’s also looking forward to bringing it to the US, where it will be released in 2022.
“We are proud to present this amazing film to American audiences and present Audrey as an exciting new voice in cinema,” said Arianna Bocco, President of IFC Films. “Film allows viewers to feel and challenge in a way that only the best cinema can.”
Divan said she wants to show the film wherever she can and start a discussion.
“I don’t like polemics,” she said. “I like the discussion.”
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