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Competition “Sarah’s Key” Interview with Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Director) (10/26)

Competition “Sarah’s Key” Interview with Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Director) (10/26)

It was predestined necessity that Gilles Paquet-Brenner, a born and bred Parisian, encountered “Sarah’s Key,” which portrayed the tragedy of French Jews during the Second World War. In a retrospective mood where France reflects upon its recent past, Brenner has brought back to life the story of Sarah who lived in Paris under German occupation. The same technique as the original story, which switches between past and present, portrays Sarah’s life with vivid realism.
©2010 TIFF
---How did you learn about the history of Jewish oppression?

I learned about the holocaust at school, but I knew about it from early on because my grandfather was a German Jew and died in a concentration camp. However, there is a big difference between knowing about it and understanding it. I really felt that when I read the original story three and a half years ago. The young generations know about it as part of history, but they don’t really understand it. Why the holocaust happened, and how was it implemented? I would like the audience to contemplate on that. This is an issue that also linked to the present time.

---Other films portrayed French Jews under German occupation. What is different in this film?

There were people who collaborated with the Nazis, and this was mentioned in films in the past. However, the French police arrested Jews and transported them to camps, which means the country played a part in the oppression. This is a serious matter. Jacques Chirac revealed this in a speech whilst he was the president, and the people were shocked.

---Did Mélusine Mayance who played Sarah have an understanding about the war?

She did not know about the war at the beginning, so her parents told her about it. When I met with the holocaust survivors, she came with me and listened to them. She is only 10, so her understanding would be superficial at the moment, but she may have a deeper understanding in a few years.

---How was Kristin Scott Thomas who played the American journalist, Julia?

She does really well if you win her confidence. When you want her to do something in terms of performance, you need to explain the reasons properly. When she is convinced, she will give brilliant performances.
©2010 TIFF

---What did you keep in mind when you were making the film?

Since it’s such a heavy theme, I try not to make it too tragic or melodramatic. I wanted the audience to feel as if they are there at the event in 1942. It is not in distant history. I did not want to show the holocaust victims in a big figure, but I wanted to show that individuals suffered. It was fortunate that momentum was also gathering in Spain to shed light on the past when the film was screened at the San Sebastian Film Festival, so it was well understood that Sarah’s tragedy is not of the past at all but it is affecting the present day. Julia in the film is an American, not a Jew, but she sacrifices her home and everything else to pursue Sarah. The actress, Kristin Scott Thomas, is exactly like that, too. That is the universality of the film. How is Japan facing the past?

Brenner is based in both Paris and Los Angeles. He is French but cosmopolitan, too, and he talks about the importance of universality of being a human being. It overlaps with the heroine who goes round the world to cover stories, but Brenner is happiest when he returns to Paris. “A metropolitan city but a quiet family life is also possible,” that he claims is the charm of Paris.

(Interviewed by Chiseko Tanaka)

Sarah's Key
Film Information

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KEIRIN.JPThe 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
22nd Tokyo International Film Festival(2009)