Four autobiographical films from France

Writing your own biography is a challenge, but things get even more complicated when you want to put your memories on camera. However, French filmmakers seem to have mastered this art. Walk This Way offers you a fine selection of four francophone autobiographical films in all different shapes and sizes: fiction, documentary and animation.

Me, Myself and Mum by Guillaume Gallienne  (France, Belgium 2013, fiction)

Available on VoD via the Premium Films collection from 11 July

With its unique style of storytelling and an outstanding performance by Guillaume Gallienne, who plays himself and his mother, this is a very personal autobiographical film. Beyond sexual discovery, the movie tells the story of a man who goes through a series of painful experiences in order to discover who he actually is outside the image his mother has of him in an extremely funny and heartbreaking way. The film opened the Cannes Directors’ fortnight in 2013 receiving public and critics. It received five Césars (French Academy Awards), including those for Best Film, Best First Feature Film, Best Adaptation and Best Actor.  

Declaration of War by Valérie Donzelli (France, 2011, fiction)

Directed by Valérie Donzelli, who co-wrote the screenplay and co-starred alongside Jérémie Elkaïm, Declaration of War is a brave, deeply personal film about a young couple’s battle to save their son from a malignant brain tumour. It is based on true events from their lives together as a young couple caring for their dangerously ill son. A touching feature, praised by critics at the 2014 Cannes Critics’ Week, with ten awards (Gijón Palm Springs, Paris Cinema, Étoiles d'Or…), and 11 nominations (Cannes, César, Globes de Cristal among others) to its name, this is a must-see film that immerses the audience into the most intimate experiences of its writers. 

The Beaches of Agnès by Agnès Varda (France, 2008, documentary)

This documentary is remarkable filmmaker Agnès Varda’s autobiographical essay as she celebrates her 80th birthday on camera, revealing emotional elegance and visually eccentric image-memories as Varda revisits places from her past. The film is composed of photos, archive footage and videos and, although she provides the audience with deep insight into her life, she raises more questions than she answers. The film has received many awards and nominations, including the César for Best Documentary, US National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Non-Fiction Film, and Perseverance Award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

Approved for Adoption by Laurent Boileau and Jung (2012, France, Belgium, South Korea, Switzerland, animation)

Approved for Adoption is adapted from a series of comic books by Jung that follow his life and his return to South Korea. In the 1960s, almost 200,000 Korean children were recommended for international adoption, as most of these children were, or at least were assumed to be, the children of mixed unions between western soldiers and Korean women. Jung was one of those children and at the age of five was adopted by a Belgian couple. Approved for Adoption is a charming journey into personal discovery and with two wins and one nomination from Annecy, a Special Mention in Torino and nominations at the Magritte Awards and Melbourne International Film Festival, the film is a must-see not only for animation lovers, but for all cinephiles.

07 July 2016, by Cineuropa