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2010 Festival Feature Films (March 25-28)

Soeur Sourire

Belgian director Stijn Coninx presents Sœur Sourire

director Stijn Coninx screenplay Stijn Coninx, Ariane Fert, Chris Vander Stappen based on the life of Jeannine Deckers, Sœur Sourire starring Cécile De France, Sandrine Blancke, Jan Decleir, Johan Leysen, Chris Lomme, Jo Deseure, Marie Kremer, Filip Peeters, Christelle Cornil, Tsilla Chelton running time 2 h parental guidance


At the end of the 1950s, in the vicinity of Brussels.

Like all young people of the time, Jeannine Deckers thirsts for freedom and discovery. There is no way that she will accept the choices her parents have made for her: find a husband and take over the family bakery. She aspires to have another life, traveling and helping people. Initially attracted to art studies, she eventually decides to enter a convent. Jeannine discovers that being a Dominican nun is a difficult vocation. She is asked to renounce all worldly things, including music. She is just not ready to do that. Despite the incomprehension of the other sisters, but with the support of the mother superior, she holds firm and even composes a hit song, “Dominique.” Jeannine then becomes known by the whole world as “Sister Smile.”

She will become famous and her records will sell millions. Her success will be compared to that of Elvis Presley.

This film tells the unique and moving story of this young woman who never gave up on her dreams.

Stijn Coninx

selected filmography

2009 Sœur Sourire
2007 To Walk Again
2005 De kavijaks (TV mini-series)
2004 Visions of Europe (segment “Self-Portrait”)
2003 Vander dan de maan
2002 Nefast voor de feestvreugde 3 (TV)
2001 Nefast voor de feestvreugde 2 (TV)
2000 Nefast voor de feestvreugde (TV)
1999 Het peulengaleis (TV series)
1998 When the Light Comes
1994 Daens (Joseph Plateau Award, Best Belgian Director 1994)

Cécile De France

selected filmography

2010 Les Gardiens de l’ordre by Nicolas Boukhrief
2009 Sœur Sourire by Stijn Coninx
  Où est la main de l’homme sans tête by Guillaume Malandrin and Stéphane Malandrin
2008 D’une vie à l’autre by Alice Mitterrand
  L’Instinct de mort by Jean-François Richet
2007 Un secret by Claude Miller
  J’aurais voulu être un danseur by Alain Berliner
  Blanche Neige, la suite by Picha (voice)
2006 Mauvaise foi by Roschdy Zem
  Mon colonel by Laurent Herbiet
  Quand j’etais chanteur by Xavier Giannoli
  Fauteuils d’orchestre by Danièle Thompson
2005 Les Poupées russes by Cédric Klapisch
2004 La Confiance règne by Étienne Chatiliez
  Around the World in 80 Days by Frank Coraci
2003 Haute tension by Alexandre Aja
  Moi, César, 10 ans 1/2, 1m39 by Richard Berry
  La Nuit du 6 au 7 by Patrice Bauduinet
2002 A+ Pollux by Luc Pagès
  Irène by Ivan Calbérac
  L’Auberge espagnole by Cédric Klapisch


2006 César award for Best Supporting Actress - Russian Dolls
2003 César award for Most Promising Actress - Auberge espagnole
  Lumière award for Most Promising Actress - Auberge espagnole

Sandrine Blancke

selected filmography

2009 Montparnasse by Mikhael Hers
  Soeur Sourire by Stijn Coninx
2008 Les Vacances de Clémence by Michel Andrieu (TV)
2006 Noire d’encre by Olivier van Malderghem
2005 L’Enfant de personne by Michaël Perrotta
  Retraite by François Pirot
  Antoine et Elsa by Mikhail Bouchler
2003 L’Autre by Benoît Mariage
  L’Aubaine (TV series) by Aline Issermann
2001 Regarde-moi by Frédéric Sojcher
2000 La Chambre obscure by Marie-Christine Questerbert
  Les Filles ne savent pas nager by Anne-Sophie Birot
1999 Sam by Yves Boisset
1995 La Fête des pères (TV series) by Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe
Le Fils du requin by Agnès Merlet (Joseph Plateau Award, Best Belgian Actress 1993)
  L’Ombre du doute by Aline Issermann
1992 Le Retour de Casanova by Edouard Niermans
1991 Toto le héros by Jaco van Dormael

Jan Decleir

selected filmography

2009 Les Barons by Nabil Ben Yadir
  Ob ihr wollt oder nich! by Ben Verbong
  Sœur Sourire by Stijn Coninx
  Limo by Guy Goossens
2008 Loft by Erik Van Looy
2007 Waar is het paard van Sinterklaas by Mischa Kamp
  Paparazzo (TV) by Stephan Wagner
  Man zkt vrouw by Miel Van Hoogenbemt (Golden Reel Award, Best Actor 2008)
  Firmin by Dominique Deruddere
  Wolfsbergen by Nanouk Leopold
  Blind by Tamar van den Dop
2006 Kruistocht in spijkerbroek by Ben Sombogaart
2005 Het paard van Sinterklaas by Mischa Kamp
  Verlengd weekend by Hans Herbots
Een ander zijn geluk by Fien Troch
  Off Screen by Pieter Kuijpers (Montréal World Film Festival, Best Actor 2005)
2004 De kus by Hilde Van Mieghem
  Edelweißpiraten by Niko von Glasgow
2003 De passievrucht by Maarten Treurniet
  L’Autre by Benoît Mariage
  De zaak Alzheimer by Erik Van Looy (Joseph Plateau Awards, Best Belgian Actor 2004)
  Till Eulenspiegel by Eberhard Junkersdorf

Interview with Stijn Coninx (director)

How did you get the idea to create the film, Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile), alias of Jeannine Deckers?
About 15 years ago, two scriptwriters, Soeur SourireLuc Maddelein and Leen van den Berg, suggested that I film a biography of Jeannine Deckers. However, I turned them down because the script focused essentially on her problems with the tax department and on a particular time of her life when she lived in poverty. That didn’t really interest me. Some years later, the producer Jan van Raemdonck brought up the same project. When I explained to him that I knew it and that I was not interested, he asked me to meet with the actress Cécile de France, who he thought would be perfect for the role of Soeur Sourire. Moreover, he agreed to let me modify the script.

And you accepted his proposition?
After I met Cécile, I was convinced. I began working with Chris Vander Stappen, then with Arian Fert on a new script. For me, a film that takes place in a different time period has no meaning if it doesn’t have any resonance with the present. So I wanted all the viewers — especially the younger generation — to recognize themselves in this story. I feel that the most interesting thing about Jeannine Deckers was her desire for love. Essentially, she is a young girl who desperately wants to be loved by her parents and yet never succeeded; she doesn’t know how to deal with or handle love. This is the main subject of the film.

Interview with Cécile de France (actress)

What is your take on the character of Sister Smile?
For me, she’s first and foremost a rebel, a dissident who rises above the limits of authority defined by her status. She also wanted to give a more humane image of the church. Through her songs, she sincerely believed that she could attract young people to the Catholic Church. But, she was also a woman who was concerned with the social reality of her time and with those who had less wealth: it is for this reason that she would have wanted the church to be at the service of humanity.

What aspect of her personality interests you the most?
That she was a pain! Soeur SourireA real hardhead. She really was an egotistical individual with a disproportionate ego. She refused all authority, her mother’s, her superiors’ at the convent, and social rules.

Jeannine Deckers also has a dubious side …
Yes, she has a repressed aggressiveness and a savage brutality. During the shooting of the film, I proposed physically violent things that Stijn often accepted. Actually, I believe that she remained an unstable and curt adolescent who never became an adult and never could confront the realities of her life.

Were you coached to play the guitar and to sing?
For five months. But it’s the guitar that gave me the most difficulty: it’s truly thanks to Bruno Pillois that I learned to overcome my angst of playing in front of the camera.




Virginia Commonwealth University University of Richmond University of Richmond