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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2015 - 17.26 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2015

Based on real-life events that took place in France in the late 19th century. Born deaf and blind, Marie Heurtin, aged 14, is incapable of communicating. Despite the advice of a doctor who believes she is “dumb”, Marie’s father, a humble artisan, cannot bring himself to commit her to an asylum. Out of despair, he goes to Larnay Institute near Poitiers, where nuns take care of young deaf women. Despite the Mother Superior’s scepticism, Sister Marguerite, a young nun, takes Marie under her wing and does everything she can to bring her out of her darkness.

Original Title MARIE HEURTIN
Category Official Competition
Tipology Feature Film
Duration 94'
Production Year 2014
Nationality France
Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris
Screenplay Jean-Pierre Améris, Philippe Blasband
Director of photography Virginie Saint-Martin
Editor Anne Souriau
Production Design Franck Schwarz
Costume Design Danièle Colin-Linard
Sound Laurent Lafran
Music Sonia Wieder-Atherton
Main cast Isabelle Carré (Sister Marguerite)
Ariana Rivoire (Marie Heurtin)
Brigitte Catillon (Mother Superior)
Noémie Churlet (Sister Raphaëlle)
Gilles Treton (Monsieur Heurtin)
Laure Duthilleul (Madame Heurtin)
Produced by Denis Carot, Sophie Révil

Jean-Pierre-Améris okJean-Pierre Améris
Born 1961, Lyon. He is a graduate of Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques. In 1988 he made the short film INTÉRIM, which won the Clermont-Ferrand Festival’s Grand Prix. In 1994 he directed his first feature film, THE MARRIAGE BOAT (LE BATEAU DE MARIAGE). Then he shot the feature films LES AVEUX DE L’INNOCENT (1996), which won the Award of the Youth at the 1996 Cannes Festival, BAD COMPANY (MAUVAISES FRÉQUENTATIONS, 1999), C’EST LA VIE (2001), LIGHTWEIGHT (POIDS LÉGER, 2004), CALL ME ELISABETH (JE M’APPELLE ELISABETH, 2006), ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (LES ÉMOTIFS ANONIME, 2010), THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (L’HOMME QUI RIT, 2012). MARIE’S STORY won the Variety Piazza Grande Award at the 2014 Locarno Festival.

Director’s statement
“This project began with my fascination for the story of Helen Keller. In my research, I came across the lesser known story of Marie Heurtin and I immediately decided to visit the Larnay Institute in Poitiers, where she lived in the 19th century. The Institute is no longer a religious establishment, yet remains a centre for deaf-mute children. In light of the scientific progress of the last hundred years, I was surprised to find that the institute was still in operation. It is difficult for me to describe how I felt when I met these children who could only communicate by touch and who were eager to feel my hands and face as soon as I arrived. I felt quite powerless trying to communicate with them. I also met these children’s parents who explained the challenges they faced. Exactly like Marie Heurtin’s father over a century ago, some were told by doctors that their child was mentally challenged and would never be able to communicate. The parents’ despair ended when they were introduced to the instructors of the Larnay Institute who taught their children how to make contact with the world. Marie Heurtin’s case, which depended on hard work and tenacity, far more than mysticism, is considered a miracle and the techniques Sister Marguerite invented are used today. Ever since my visit, I have felt compelled to tell Marie’s story. People who are considered different, and consequently marginalized, is a central theme in my films, such as ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS. What I find thrilling in Marie Heurtin’s story is the exceptional character of Sister Marguerite and her unshakable conviction that she will succeed in releasing young Marie from her inner prison. The bond created between Marie and Sister Marguerite is nothing less than a nun experiencing something which, by definition, she is not intended to experience: maternal love. This bond includes an inevitable separation which represents the final stage in young Marie’s learning process”.

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