Des hommes, by Alice Odiot and Jean-Robert Viallet
Presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019, in the ACID selection, Des hommes invites audiences into the underbelly of the Baumettes prison in Marseille.
A distinguished duo
Initially a journalist, Alice Odiot became a film-maker by training alongside director and journalist Jean-Robert Viallet. In 2009, she became his assistant director on the trilogy La Mise à mort du travail, for which the film-maker would receive the Albert-Londres Award. Three years later, it was Alice Odiot’s turn to win the prestigious award for her film Zambie, à qui profite le cuivre ? (2011).
The two directors came together in 2015 for Jusqu'à ce que la mort nous sépare in which they depict the plight of a woman held prisoner by domestic violence. In 2019, they set up their cameras in the Baumettes prison, and made Des hommes, a documentary that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival the same year.
Shaking off the clichés
Alice Odiot and Jean-Robert Viallet chose to put the focus on the detainees rather than in the prison conditions so often condemned. The two film-makers gave a voice to young adults, often repeat offenders who shared their stories and told of what put them behind bars.
The duo opted for a decidedly understated tone, filming the daily lives of prisoners, made of walks, sports and endless boredom, and thus showing the real face of prison, rather than the clichés that persist in so many fictions.
Immersion at the Baumettes Prison
While working at Jusqu'à ce que la mort nous sépare, Alice Odiot and Jean-Robert Viallet met a former Baumettes inmate who told them of her two years in prison. Shocked by the violence of her story, they decided to make a documentary about the prison, already known for its unsanitary conditions.
From as early as 2013, they filed for permission to film the prison’s insides. A long stand-off ensued between the Ministry of Justice and the Directorate of the Prison Service. After two years, the two film-makers finally managed to get inside the prison to make the first location scouting shots. They began filming in 2016.
This plunge into the world of prisons calls into question the current justice system and denounces the mistreatment of detainees, denied their humanity.
World premiere at Cannes
The documentary by Alice Odiot and Jean-Robert Viallet, supported by the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), had its big premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 in the selection of the ACID.
The film then toured France, from the Festival Premiers Plans in Angers, where it was distinguished, to the International Festival of Political Film in Carcassonne.
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The documentary Des hommes by Alice Odiot and Jean-Robert Viallet, supported by the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), had its big premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 in the selection of the ACID. You can now find this documentary in the cinema catalogue of the Institut français.
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