Donatienne Berthereau on „Nuits blanches“/ interview

Born in Montreuil, France in 1993, she studied film at the Sorbonne Nouvelle university and then directing at La Fémis in Paris. Nuits blanches is her first film since she graduated in 2021. She is currently developing her debut feature film, a free adaptation of “L’Etranger” by Albert Camus. Since January 2023, she has also been filming a documentary about a newly elected member of the French parliament.

What was your starting point for “Nuits blanches”?

This film has several starting points. At first, I wanted to revive a certain feeling. During curfews in 2021 we often had dinners at home with my friends from La Fémis. On a particular evening, we were talking about the 2022 presidential elections and I expressed the idea that I didn’t believe in democracy anymore and that, as a result, I wouldn’t vote in the next elections. Things got heated and I soon got accused of being part of those responsible for the rise of the far right. I was quite affected by it and I wanted to show in a film this violence and what it felt like to be misunderstood. Then, there was the idea of using the film to show how drug use, such as coke, can be seen as a political consequence of our deregulated Western world, something that enters every layers of our intimate lives. Finally, I wanted to make a fictional film that is also a documentary, to keep track of this historic moment around the French elections, a track that would be very personal.

Do you have a favorite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

One scene that I particularly like in the film is the end of the house party in the first part of the film. Time seems to be suspended, in the silence and melancholia of never-ending nights. When people try, with very simple gestures – a caress, a last dance – to hold onto what disappears at dawn. This moment when each person finds themselves and know that one day they will disappear.
And there is the portrait of my friend Badis at Canal Saint-Martin, expressing very sincerely how he feels at the time I interview him. I like this rupture in the tone of the film, which adds a new layer of thinking. I like that he speaks for Solène, who doesn’t speak much in the film – and that he addresses the audience as if everyone shared the same feelings. I like the fragility and sincerity of these two scenes.  

What do you like about the short form?

Short films allow us to work at pace, without waiting for funding, without re-writing endlessly nor expecting validation from several commissions. At least that’s what we did for this film. We prepared the film in three months from January to April 2022, with the support of a few volunteer technicians and actors. We were able to decide each day what we were going to shoot, according to the evolving electoral calendar, along with friends who were always present to support the film. Short films also provide greater freedom of speech, allow experimentation and are not made for profit. They don’t fit into a previous narrative, but are moved by the common necessity of saying something. It’s close to a poem. It doesn’t need to go somewhere, it can just go through a moment in life, a period of time, a small part of the Universe, without having to ‘tell a story’.

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