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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2015 - 17.26 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2015

Abandoned by his mother at the age of six, Malony is constantly in and out of juvenile court. An adoptive family grows around this young delinquent: Florence, a children’s magistrate nearing retirement, and Yann, a caseworker and himself the survivor of a very difficult childhood. Together they follow the boy’s journey and try unfailingly to save him. Then Malony is sent to a stricter educational centre, where he meets Tess, a very special young girl who will show him that there are reasons for hope.

Original Title LA TÊTE HAUTE
Category Official Competition
Section Generator +16
Tipology Feature Film
Duration 119'
Production Year 2015
Nationality France
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
Screenplay Emmanuelle Bercot, Marcia Romano
Director of photography Guillaume Schiffman
Editor Julien Leloup
Production Design Éric Barboza
Costume Design Pascaline Chavanne
Sound Pierre André
Music Éric Neveux
Main cast Catherine Deneuve (Florence)
Rod Paradot (Malony)
Benoît Magimel (Yann)
Sara Forestier (Séverine)
Diane Rouxel (Tess)
Elizabeth Mazev (Claudine)
Produced by François Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne

Bercot reg OKEmmanuelle Bercot
Born 1967, Paris. She is a director, screenwriter and actress. She studied at the École du spectacle, the Cours Florent and the film school La Fémis. As an actress, she worked for several directors, including Claude Miller, Bertrand Tavernier, Claude Lelouch, Olivier Assayas. As a director, she made a number of short films, such as LES VACANCES (1997, which won the Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival 1997), and the feature films CLÉMENT (2001), BACKSTAGE (2005), ON MY WAY (ELLE S’EN VA, 2013). STANDING TALL was the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival 2015, where she won the Best Actress award (ex aequo) for the feature film MON ROI, directed by Maïwenn.

Director’s statement
“My idea at first was to make a film about the support system that revolves around a child, but when that idea came to me I knew little about such work. It was the years of research I did before shooting the film that enabled me to realize how committed these workers were, their abnegation, patience and capacity never to give up. Actually, the film’s real point of departure is rooted in very specific circumstances. I have an uncle who is a youth counselor and, as a child, I visited him one summer in Brittany where he was in charge of a camp for young delinquents. One of them was even a child criminal. As a little girl from a well-heeled, proper and supportive background, I was fascinated by the behaviour of these teenagers who hadn’t been as lucky as I was, intrigued by their insolence, their rebellion against authority and social conventions. At the same time I was in awe of the work undertaken by my uncle and the other counselors to get them back on the right track, as we say, to educate them, to teach them to love themselves and love others, to show respect for others but first of all to have respect for themselves. The memory remained very present in my mind to the point that as a teenager I considered becoming a juvenile judge. It eventually inspired me to make a film about it.

“The first thing I did was to go spend time with my uncle. I asked him to talk to me about his experience as a counselor. He introduced me to other counselors and a juvenile judge in Valence. I had the opportunity to observe court hearings, I spent time in a juvenile detention centre, and I read an awful lot of books on the subject as well as watched every reportage and documentary I could find about it, taking copious notes. This initial approach was deeply upsetting and terrifying. How can one not feel compassion and understanding for these children who have been damaged by terrible family dramas, by poverty and often by their parents’ abdication of their responsibility, followed by failings of the school system, and by the devastating lack of love that leaves them to their own devices, with no values or any hope or future prospects, adrift, caught up in a spiral that only youth counselors and judges can help them to stop? And how can one not admire the energy, devotion and patience these counselors and judges deploy to pull these youngsters out of the ditch no matter what, despite the obstacles, the ingratitude, the cruelty and their lousy salaries, basically offering these children the attention they so sorely lacked?

“How can society be rescued if not through education, in the broadest sense of the term? Juvenile justice is based on the idea that nothing is entirely written in stone for a child and that through educational and support programs, the downhill slide can be stopped. How all this can be done without giving up – because results are a long time coming, if they come at all? That’s what the film is about.

“My uncle had grown particularly close to a young delinquent he had looked after for several years, together with a juvenile judge, a woman, who was on the verge of retiring. I was directly inspired by that story. The teenager had become as attached to my uncle as to the judge. My uncle said to me that one day he had told the judge, ‘For him, you’re his mother and I’m his father’, and she replied, ‘No, you’re his mother and I’m his father’. From that point on I decided that the judge in my film would be a woman and that it had to be Catherine Deneuve who played the role.

“Marcia Romano’s (co-screenwriter) contribution is what made the film what it is today. I was very attached to this idea of the trio – the counselor, the judge and the delinquent – but at first I imagined a more romantic, more fictional, more fragmented storyline. In my mind, the film also followed the boy in his crimes and misdemeanours. She convinced me to leave them out and to ground the narrative in a radical framework, sticking mainly to the educational process, keeping as much as possible within all the various support institutions a delinquent minor encounters along the way. So the action takes place mostly indoors, in offices. That’s how the film found its direction and what makes it what it is today. This of course raised other issues of dramatization, other challenges, too, because, while trying not to bore viewers, it was important to convey the tension of these face-to-face encounters, these hearings in the course of which the scales could tip one way or another each time. That made it all the more exciting”.

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