A strong ecological conscience irrigates your film “Green Algae”. How long has it lived with you?
Since childhood. We are in 1962, I am 10 years old. With my brother Marc, we live in a very polluted suburb of Paris, near Orly. Factories are springing up there like mushrooms. In the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, we have the feeling that the world could change at any minute. The threat of a nuclear conflict weighed so much on the young people of my generation! A few years later, I discovered the work of pacifist agronomist René Dumont (he will be the first environmentalist presidential candidate, in 1974, editor’s note). This changed my relationship to the world and, since then, I have been an ecologist. Second realization: the Chernobyl accident in 1986. I went to the Cannes Film Festival in a state of amazement. And I noticed that this drama worried few people around me. I felt that I had to act.
What made you want to make this adaptation of the comic strip “Green algae, the forbidden story” (1)?
The captivating story of journalist Inès Léraud! She conducted a well-documented investigation, despite the omerta surrounding the issue of green algae. It begins as a thriller: since the end of the 1980s, on the Breton coast, at least forty animals and three men have died after inhaling hydrogen sulphide emanating from green algae. An outstanding investigator, Inès has succeeded in demonstrating that the proliferation of these algae comes from the discharge of nitrates into the soil, nitrates from intensive farming intended for the food industry. A situation emblematic of what is happening everywhere else in the world: we find ourselves caught in a frantic race towards “always more” dividends and returns. But the soils, the rivers, the sea and even the air suffer from this overexploitation.
For the first time in your filmography, the heroine takes on the role of whistleblower…
Whistleblowers are today’s heroes! Rigorous, loyal and independent, Inès (played by Céline Sallette) went all the way with her investigation, despite the pitfalls and her precarious status as a freelancer. Working on “cold cases” (unresolved cases, editor’s note), she gradually built relationships of trust with the families of victims.
They are victims of an economic war, you mean in the film.
On the ground, I was shocked by the remarks made to the families of the victims by the elected officials and the public authorities, after the death of their relatives poisoned with green algae: “Circulate! There’s nothing to see!” Politicians have not sufficiently taken into account their suffering. I notice it at each public screening of the film: compassion for the victims helps to raise collective awareness.
Did you know Brittany before shooting this film there?
Like many children born in the 1950s and 1960s, I spent all my holidays there. We camped with farmers from whom we bought milk, butter and eggs. For us, children from the Parisian suburbs, it was magnificent. A strength of soul inhabits this region, which I wanted to bring to the screen. Hence the use of scope (2) to best convey the cinematic beauty of this region.
At the release of “The Very Very Big Business” in 2008, you said that citizens have a secret weapon: the ballot…
This is no longer enough! In the environmental field, whistleblowers and local actions count a lot today. It is necessary to mobilize without violence on the ground. Democrat preferring dialogue to confrontation, I wish to challenge citizens in order to enlighten their consciences. What great adventures to lead!
Is your political conscience a family affair?
It would be up to my children, 40 and 24, to tell you! Their generation is faced with ecological issues. To my 24-year-old daughter, passionate about her law studies in the environmental field, I often say that life is beautiful thanks to the commitments we make. We are living in incredible times and the scale of the necessary transformations should not discourage them. Existence is so much more interesting when you fight for a vision of the world instead of undergoing it! Committed for thirty years to the ARP (Civil society of authors directors producers, Editor’s note), I know that we can make things happen in politics by talking on the ground. It’s my credo, in my family and at work.
You come from a tribe of actors: your mother was an actress, as well as your brothers and sisters. Do these links matter to you?
Our mother transmitted to us the joy of making! With her, I learned never to complain, but to act. We grew up in a very modest environment, where the union fight made sense. My grandfather passed on his sense of commitment to me.
And then you put on your first shows in May 1968, with your brother Marc…
I was 16, Marc was 18, we did café-théâtre in the factories on strike. In exchange for a meal, the workers were given a good time. Today on set, or with my son Adrien who composes the music for all my films, I always enjoy working together. I take the bet that life is happier in sharing!
(1) Green algae, the forbidden story, by Inès Léraud and Pierre Van Hove, Ed. The comic magazine / Delcourt, 2019, 160 p. ; €19. The survey won numerous awards.
(2) Process for projecting an image in panoramic format.