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2008 Festival Feature Films (March 28-30)

Michou d’Auber

French director Thomas Gilou presents the feature film Michou d’Auber

director Thomas Gilou screenplay Thomas Gilou, Messaoud Hattou producers Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Luc Besson, Michel Feller starring Gérard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, Mathieu Amalric, Samy Seghir, Akli Fellag running time 2 h 04 min although not rated, parental guidance suggested


Messaoud, a 9-year-old Algerian boy, lives in Aubervilliers, a suburb of Paris. Due to his mother’s illness, his father is forced to send him to a foster home in the countryside. The year is 1960 and the context the troubled events of the Algerian war. Gisèle, his foster mother, decides to conceal Messaoud’s identity from the local villagers and, most importantly, from her husband, Georges, a former soldier. Messaoud becomes Michel, or “Michou d’Auber,” and under this name, with the support of Gisèle and Georges’ affection, he is introduced to life in rural France. But Gisèle’s deception is soon revealed, endangering this nascent relationship.

Thomas Gilou

2005 Le Temps n’efface rien (documentary)
2001 La Vérité si je mens 2!
1999 Chili con carne
1998 Astérix et Obélix contre César (scriptwriter)
1997 La Vérité si je mens!
1995 Raï
1992 À la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (scriptwriter)
1987 Chamane
1986 Black Mic Mac
1984 La Combine de la girafe (short film)

Gérard Depardieu
selected films since 1990

2007 La Vie en Rose by Olivier Dahan
2006 Quand j’étais chanteur by Xavier Giannoli
  Paris, je t’aime by Olivier Assayas, Gérard Depardieu, et al.
2005 Olé by Florence Quentin
  Combien tu m’aimes? by Bertrand Blier
2004 Boudu by Gérard Jugnot
  Les Temps qui changent by André Téchiné
  Je préfère qu’on reste amis by Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
  36, quai des Orfèvres by Olivier Marchal
2003 San Antonio by Frédéric Auburtin
Nathalie… by Anne Fontaine
RRRrrr!!! by Alain Chabat, Les Robins des Bois
2002 Tais-toi by Francis Veber
Bon voyage by Jean-Paul Rappeneau
2000 Astérix et Obelix: Mission Cléopâtre by Alain Chabat
Le Placard by Francis Veber
Vidocq by Pitof
1999 Les Acteurs by Bertrand Blier
Vatel by Roland Joffé
1998 Astérix et Obélix contre César by Claude Zidi
1997 The Man in the Iron Mask by Randall Wallace
1996 Le Garçu by Maurice Pialat
1994 Elisa by Jean Becker
1993 Germinal by Claude Berri (VCU French Film Festival 2)
1991 Green Card by Peter Weir
Tous les matins du monde by Alain Corneau
1990 Cyrano de Bergerac by Jean-Paul Rappenau

Nathalie Baye

2007 Passe passe by Tonie Marshall
  Les Bureaux de Dieu by Claire Simon
2006 Le Prix à payer by Alexandra Leclère
  Acteur by Jocelyn Quivrin
2005 Mon fils à moi by Martial Fougeron
  Le Petit Lieutenant by Xavier Beauvois
  La Californie by Jacques Fieschi
  Ne le dis à personne by Guillaume Canet
2004 L’Un reste l’autre part by Claude Berri
2003 France boutique by Tonie Marshall
Les Sentiments by Noémie Lvovsky
Une vie à t’attendre by Thierry Klifa
2001 Absolument Fabuleux by Gabriel Aghion
La Fleur du mal by Claude Chabrol
2000 Ça ira mieux demain by Jeanne Labrune
Selon Mathieu by Xavier Beauvois
Barnie et ses petites contrariétés by Bruno Chiche (VCU French Film Festival 10)
1999 Venus Beauté (Institut) by Tonie Marshall
Une liaison pornographique by Frédéric Fonteyne
1998 Food of love by Stephen Poliakoff
  Paparazzi by Alain Berberian
  Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi by Jeanne Labrune

Samy Seghir

2007 Big City by Djamel Bensalah
2006 Bonne nuit Malik by Bruno Danan

Comments by Thomas Gilou (director)

I wanted the imagery of the film to reflect the passage from shade to light, as the child opens up to others. Among the film’s themes, the discovery of nature is important: the natural landscape of France, far from the picturesque, which would reduce it to a mystical quality. The actors form the landscapes of this film while the landscapes become characters. Michou d'Auber is the story of many Algerian children of the ’60s. It’s the story of today’s parents and their children, in search of their roots and of a culture that brings them together. It’s the universal story of parents and children and their acceptance of difference.

Interview with Nathalie Baye (actress)

Michou d’Auber

What remains with you from playing Gisèle?
Many things. I have always been touched by people who stand up for themselves but who at the same time are still very humble. Gisèle is a strong woman, she’s never shrewish, she’s smart, touching and tender. Women at that time were not independent but they had power behind the scenes.

You’ve acted opposite Gérard Depardieu before. What is your working relationship like?
We quite enjoy acting together. Each time we meet it’s like a conversation between us that we pick back up and that’s been going on for more than 30 years. The first time I acted with Gérard was in the theater. I was in my second year of drama school, no one had heard of me, or of him either, we were starting out. Then there was Le Retour de Martin Guerre, a little thing in La Dernière Femme by Ferreri, Rive droite, rive gauche, La Machine. … We share a deep understanding and real trust when working together. I know I can count on him and he knows he can count on me.

Was it important for you to spend some weeks in the region to better integrate the characters?
Yes, this helped us a lot, especially since we started shooting outdoors in Indre (a sub-region of Berry). Everyone living there together built a real team spirit. When you shoot in Paris, everyone goes home at night, they don’t meet up or eat dinner together, it’s more fragmented. And I noticed there’s an added charm in filming in these parts of the country, even more so in a period film with old cars and costumes.

Interview with Gérard Depardieu (actor)

Michou d’Auber overlaps a bit with your own life…
Yes, when Thomas spoke to me about this friend, Messaoud [Hattou], who had been raised by a couple in the Berry countryside, Michou d’AuberI immediately told him that I was from Berry and that I knew exactly what he was talking about. At the time I was living on a farm near Montchevrier — where the film was shot — that took in children from the foster care agency and there were Algerian kids I had so much fun playing with. I thought it was a fine idea and immediately wanted to get behind it. I left home, when I was 15 or 16 years old, at the time when I had made it into theater, it was an Algerian who gave me French lessons, a university professor. He was the one who taught me about syntax and alexandrine verse at the time when I was attending Jean-Laurent Cochet’s course, who incidentally was the professor of many young actors who became “old” stars, such as Fabrice Lucchini and Daniel Auteuil.

More precisely, did you witness any stories that resemble the film?
Of course! I had even seen things even more violent that what you see in the film. I had a friend who had served in Algeria, and who had come back completely bonkers. He slept with his gun and kept a string of ears preserved in a jar and he wore it when he’d go out to beat up immigrants … and yet God knows that the people of Berry are extremely open! In any case, I understood this story exactly. The subject is magnificent and inside we find things we’ve avoided talking about for quite some time: the fact that in the ’50s and ’60s, young Algerians had to abandon their language, like the Italians who arrived in the early 20th century who no longer spoke their mother tongue because they had to learn French. Thomas Gilou, who is a true writer, mixes this past into our society, and if cinema can serve that purpose, well, that’s great! Messaoud is so moving when he talks about this story, it’s hard to imagine how much this man was disconcerted, sort of like Daniel Prévost who wrote a marvelous book on his identity. But how long did it take him to say “I’m Berber, I wasn’t born in Normandy”?





Virginia Commonwealth University University of Richmond University of Richmond