In her third feature film, Jeanne Herry focuses on restorative justice, introduced in France in 2014. A powerful choral film, I will always see your faces features victims and attackers who dialogue in order to find reparation.
After Pupille (2018), a drama where she tackled the adoption of an infant born under X, Jeanne Herry (Elle l’adore, 2014) was looking for a subject for her next film. Fascinated since childhood by the legal world, during her research she came across a Radio France podcast on restorative justice.
“I found this topic incredibly interesting and exciting. I knew that there was cinema everywhere, that it was a promise of cinema, of characters, of intense situations. As I was looking for intensity, it was perfect for me,” recalls the French director, who was in Montreal to present her film at Cinemania earlier this month.
In I will always see your faces, Jeanne Herry presents two types of secure restorative justice systems. On the one hand, Chloé (Adèle Exarchopoulos), with the help of a mediator, Judith (Élodie Bouchez), prepares to announce to her half-brother who raped her throughout her childhood that she no longer wants to see him.
“I wanted to understand the mechanisms of incest. It was traditional to form a body around the aggressor. There is something anachronistic in the sequence of events; the family does not explode when the crime takes place, but when the victim speaks. »
On the other side, two animators, Fanny (Suliane Brahim) and Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), supervise meetings between three victims of violent theft, Nawelle (Leïla Bekhti), the only character inspired by a woman that the director met, Grégoire (Gilles Lellouche) and Sabine (Miou-Miou), and three attackers who are serving their sentence in prison, Nassim (Dali Benssalah), Issa (Birane Ba) and Thomas (Fred Testot).
“I haven’t gone through the news items; I met lots of facilitators and supervisors from the restorative justice side, who explained the protocols to me well. When you know the protocols well, you can add dramaturgy to them. Then, I chose crime typologies. I found it interesting that there was a variety of attacks: violent robberies, hold-ups, pickpocketing, home jackings. »
Unable to attend meetings between victims and attackers since these are confidential and secure systems, Jeanne Herry was able to follow training during which she also participated in scenarios such as in the opening scene of the film.
“That was great and it was the only thing I was able to experience a little from the inside. I thought it would make a good opening scene, a little funny, a little tricky. In addition to training in France, I was able to follow training in Quebec via Zoom. Overall, people are satisfied because, humanly, we are all made the same. Basically, we all need to unpack our bags and feel listened to, understood, respected, a little less alone. The other is not entirely other; we project ourselves, we find little echoes. »
After recalling that restorative justice had played an important role during the Bataclan attacks trial, which took place from September 2021 to June 2022, she adds: “Does it prevent people from reoffending? No, because recidivism is multifactorial and hypercomplex. Does it provide lasting reparation for all victims? No, it’s impossible, but often it doesn’t re-victimize people, which is mainly everyone’s fear. »
“In reality and in the scenario, these are still devices that carry a lot of suffering, anger, trauma. However, the supervisors that I interviewed as part of my documentation resemble their justice. They are energetic, open, friendly, very human, very funny, full of vitality. It’s a job that fascinates them where they experience strong and intense things. I just wanted to show that there was a lot of friendship, companionship, complicity in these restorative justice teams. »
For both types of encounters, the director opted for sobriety: no soundtrack, very few flashbacks and close-ups to capture all the emotions that the different characters experience during the process. “I like watching people talk and tell stories. I find that it is already very spectacular to see the emotions come out. There is nothing that upsets me more than seeing someone who understands, who thinks, who changes their mind. For me, it’s an action film,” concludes Jeanne Herry.