On the occasion of the presentation of the film “Les Engagés” at the Saint-Jean-de-Luz Festival, we met the director Émilie Frèche and the actor Benjamin Lavernhe. They evoked the political ambition of this touching drama, the personal aspect of the project and the singular angle with which it deals with the subject of exiles.
The Committed : a drama based on a true story
First feature film by writer and screenwriter Émilie Frèche, The Committed is inspired by the true story of “7 of Briançon”. In December 2018, justice condemns these activists aged 22 to 52 for having facilitated the entry of refugees into France during a demonstration organized a few months earlier against the actions of the small group Génération identitaire.
The penalties then go from six months in prison suspended to twelve months in prison, four of which are closed, for two members also prosecuted for rebellion. Three years later, in September 2021, they are finally released by the Grenoble Court of Appeal, which reconsidered the decision of the Gap Criminal Court.
If he therefore echoes this case, The Committed mainly tells the fictional journey of David, played by Benjamin Lavernhe. On the road to Briançon, this physiotherapist hits Joko (Youssouf Gueye), an exile about to be arrested by the gendarmes. David and his girlfriend Gabrielle (Julia Piaton) help him hide in the trunk of their car and welcome him homebefore taking him to a shelter run by Anne (Catherine Hiegel) and several other activists.
David quickly rallies to their cause, notably participating in raids, which attracts the attention of the police. When Joko disappears while his administrative procedures are blocked, he struggles to find the teenager and his investment turns his life upside down, as well as that of his loved ones.
A very personal project for Émilie Frèche
For the presentation of the film at the Saint-Jean-de-Luz Festival, we met Émilie Frèche and Benjamin Lavernhe. The director confided in the very personal starting point of this project:
I was angry to think that people who keep the brotherhood alive find themselves behind bars. So I went there, I wanted to understand the situation. I fell very in love with the region. There is really a desire to film this territory.
And then, but I realized it later, probably the question of disobedience and this ability to say no, very heroic, very courageous, which impresses me a lot because it is also part of my personal history. . My grandparents were saved by people who gave them fake papers. They crossed borders, with people who helped them precisely. Finally, this subject, I thought it was very far from me and in fact it was very close.
Benjamin Lavernhe was meanwhile very attracted to David’s “ride”a character with whom he identified himself:
I was very interested in seeing how the family unit, when tragedy knocks on your door, is impacted. Chemically, what’s going on, how the blinders are falling off, and how he’s going about it wrong. I found that to be rare. To take this subject, which we saw in the cinema, to take it there, from this young person who is not an activist, who is not committed, and how he explodes. It’s beautiful, it’s perilous, it’s dangerous, the fear is there when it shouldn’t…
A real political ambition
According to the actor, The Committed “is not Manichaean” and is not “judge”. Its purpose is to “to show nonsense” :
People are dying and when people die, whatever their origin, whatever their situation, we have to help them. And if helping them becomes a crime and we are afraid to help others and it is better to let them down, then it is impossible to bear.
Émilie Frèche continued:
You have to be able to show a worthy example to your children. We wrote in our republican motto the word “fraternity”. What do we do with it? We have to be connected with that.
About the political impact that the feature film can havethe filmmaker explained to us:
The objective we have set ourselves is to change the status of unaccompanied minors. We are lucky to have involved seven partner associations on the film, who will write a column when it is released. We have a screening at the European Parliament. The idea is to raise awareness, people come out of the film thinking it’s important to do something. There on the issue of minors, there are plenty of things to do. We set up a site called The Engaged – The movieand there is…