Audrey Diwan keen to bring Venice ‘Happening’ winner to the United States
French filmmaker Audrey Diwan’s life changed forever when her second film “Happening” won first prize at the Venice International Film Festival exactly one month ago. Over the next four weeks, Diwan won more awards, secured a North American distributor in IFC Films and FilmNation, and is in the running to represent France at the Oscars in 2022.
The victory of “Happening” at the Golden Lion surprised many simply because of the high level competition which included such figures as Jane Campion and Paolo Sorrentino. Hers was a subtle film about a student in France in the 1960s who seeks to end an unexpected pregnancy and stars an unknown woman, Anamaria Vartolomei. And yet, it established itself as the unanimous choice for the prestigious award from a decorated jury that included “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho and “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao.
“We really weren’t expecting anything. There were so many talented people. We were really happy and humbled, ”said Diwan. “I had so many feelings at the same time. I was thinking about the movie. I thought about my actress, I knew it was going to change everything for her. I was thinking of (author) Annie Ernaux because it’s a true story and it’s her story. And my last thought was that the topic was on everyone’s mind.
It was a record year for female directors in France. Earlier this year, Julia Ducournau became the second woman to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his wild family drama “Titanium”. Ducournau’s film is also in contention for France’s candidacy for the Oscars, which will be decided on Tuesday. The last time France selected a women’s film for the Oscars was in 2015 with Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s “Mustang”.
“I think that says something really strong about the industry in general. Basically what has happened is that they have allowed more women to make films, ”said Diwan. “And it’s a mathematical question: if you allow more women to make films, of course they will be rewarded. But you have to watch carefully at the very beginning, when the industry is giving you the money to make your movie.
Diwan didn’t take a camera until he was in his thirties. She studied journalism and political science and wrote novels and screenplays before deciding to direct. His first feature film, “Losing It”, was released in 2019.
“I now feel that I am ready for what I want to do because I have had so many different experiences,” said Diwan. “I’m finally ready for this.”
“Happening” was not an easy film to make, despite the praise for Ernaux’s novel, short of a Pulitzer. Diwan set out to do something lucid and honest about a young woman from a less privileged background who is desperate to continue her education, as well as the reality of “back alley” abortions.
Although the film is set in the ’60s, she is keenly aware that it is still relevant today. She wrote the film with Poland in mind. Then on the way to Venice with the film finished, she read about the current situation in Texas.
“I made this film for what it means to me. I like to make films not to give answers but to ask questions, ”said Diwan. “I’m convinced that somehow the film meets the moment and we have something to discuss and share around it.”
Already she was turned on by the conversations and reactions to the play. Recently in Paris, she says, a young student told her he was against abortion but after seeing her film he was no longer sure.
“Art matters and can open up debates,” said Diwan. “Venice was nice because the jury unanimously appreciated and understood the film. But it does mean something because they were of different genders, ages and cultures. It was one of the first times I thought we could maybe share it with a lot of different people. “
If his film was selected to represent France at the Oscars, Diwan said it would only broaden that conversation. But she is also looking forward to bringing it to the United States, where it will be released in 2022.
“We are proud to present this incredible film to American audiences and to present Audrey as an exciting new voice in cinema,” said Arianna Bocco, President of IFC Films. “The film allows audiences to feel and be challenged in a way that only the best cinema can do.”
Diwan said she wants to show the film wherever she can and open the discussion.
“I don’t like controversy,” she said. “I like to discuss. “
Follow AP screenwriter Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr