In search of her Algerian roots, actress-director Maïwenn signs DNA, intimate drama about identity and transmission. Meeting with a living force of cinema.
Discovering Bellissima, by Luchino Visconti, Maïwenn felt the Italian filmmaker telling his story. That of a little girl whose mother desperately wanted her to do cinema. Tossed from casting to casting from an early age, she was quickly left to herself with her maternal grandparents as sole guarantors of her well-being. Then the cinema revealed it. At 44, his career is impressive: the actress-director has succeeded.
Respected filmmaker since the success of Polishes and of My king, she presents DNA, her fifth film (released October 28, 2020), a tribute to her Algerian grandfather “without whom she would have sunk”. When the latter died three years ago, Maïwenn went through a deep identity crisis. This pain and mourning became the starting point of his film. Supported by Louis Garrel, Fanny Ardant, Dylan robert and Marine Vacth, among others, Maïwenn stages herself in the skin of Neige, a disoriented woman in search of her roots. While the story closely resembles a chapter in her life, the filmmaker nevertheless refutes the idea of an autobiographical mirror. This would amount, according to her, “to flouting all the writing work, its poetry and its lyricism.” With DNA, the public will rediscover the “uppercut” and demanding side of his cinema, but they will also discover a softer and more joyful side of a woman named Maïwenn.
In video, the trailer for “DNA”
“While I was struggling to finance a film project about the Countess du Barry, the idea ofDNA came to me as I was going through a deep quest for identity since the death of my grandfather. The only way for me to make death bearable being to give life to those absent, I understood that I would cure this pain by documenting myself on the history of my grandparents, that of a mixed marriage between an Algerian and a French. They were simple, generous, loving people, full of that special African warmth. To understand them, I had to look at things through their eyes. I wanted to know everything about Algeria, its history, its culture, its traditions…, and I even ended up obtaining my Algerian passport, because I knew that, in a way, this country would console me. During this period, I also changed my dating – movie people seemed too self-centered – and I started to read a lot. Probably also to fill my lack of knowledge. But I must admit that the shooting was carried out in pain because I did not feel well, I had the impression that I no longer knew how to make cinema, and I was afraid of not being understood by my team and the actors. It was during the editing that I came to terms with the film. “
“With DNA, I want to pay homage to those who loved me, rather than trying to understand those who destroyed me. I never try to settle accounts through a film. I cannot say that Fanny Ardant, who plays the mother in DNA, is modeled on mine or that I play my own role. I always start from feelings that have run through me at some point in my life, but I am not clearly separating the true from the false. There is no set recipe and I have no qualms about exaggerating or tempering situations for the sake of a movie. “
DNA of beauty
“Because I love the glamor side of cinema, I try to make my actors as beautiful as possible. I need to be in love with them to film them, and I can cut a scene if I find them ugly. As for me, as a teenager, I was not selected for the castings: I was considered “too typed”, and I did not understand what that meant. Today, that’s the best compliment anyone can give me! And I am one of the few women who still like to be whistled on the street – it is becoming unusual in Paris, but luckily there are still a few rebels out there who are not impressed by the MeToo movement! “
“True feminism is one that advocates equal treatment between men and women. In contrast, debates over quotas in cinema are having the opposite effect. Will I now be selected at Cannes film festival because I am a woman and not for my talent? I do not share the pressure initiated by Céline Sciamma’s “clique”. I want to choose people for who they are and not based on their gender. And then men still adore women! Yes Thierry Frémaux, the general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, could, he would surround himself only with directors and actresses, but he is not going to refuse a film by Ken loach competing under the pretext that he’s a man. And, once again, this witch hunt is counterproductive. As for the question of Roman Polanski, I think the French love to debate: so let’s debate, of course, but stop blind censorship… ”
“I love shooting for others. That’s why I’m happy to find the Larrieu brothers for their film right now Tralala. They are real artists, poets that I adore. In parallel with this shooting, I am collaborating on the writing of the screenplay for the next film by Roschdy Zem : It is also a real pleasure to be in the shadows, my role being to shake things up, as Mathieu Demy did for me with DNA. After that, I will find the boards. Seventeen years after my one-woman-show, I will play in Inhabit time, a play by Swedish author Rasmus Lindberg, dealing with traumatic sequelae that are passed down from generation to generation. I left to refuse, but I fell in love with the text … (directed by Michel Didym, from December 11, 2020 at the Théâtre de la Manufacture, in Nancy, then on tour in January and, in Paris, at the ‘fall 2021)’
“I have no career plan, only desires. I would like, for example, to direct an action film or shoot in Japan … And I am not giving up my project on Madame du Barry. I was immediately won over by the story of this 18th century countess, whose life inspired me to write a screenplay that I wrote for four years. Hope the film comes to life next year! As for my position as a director, I realize that I am more and more demanding on a set: I aspire to progress. When I started out, it was only the actors that interested me, schematically. Today I pay more attention to … everything! The sets, the frames, the lighting, the costumes, the hairstyles … nothing escapes me, not even the smallest role. Each of the characters must be embodied and tell something. “