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Histoires Mêlées, La Rochelle

La Rochelle - France

FAR is a non-profit organization set up in 1999 in La Rochelle to digitize and preserve photos and films made in the Poitou-Charentes area of France. The organization holds many amateur films.

At the Escales Documentaires-International Festival of Creative Documentary in La Rochelle (7-12 November 2017), the association presented Histoires Mêlées (Interwoven Stories). This is a 16-minute film based mainly on letters from a couple who are having to live apart. For health reasons, Maurice has to spend time at the Hôpital Aufrédy in La Rochelle while Lili takes care of their farm at Surgères and looks after their young daughter Andrée. Excerpts from their letters form the film voice-over. To write the film, FAR opted to focus on passages that deal with farm life, village daily life, the naughty things the little girl gets up to and the feelings they express for each other.

A feeling of intimacy and the simplicity of their dialogue about daily events echo what is shown in other family films made from the 1940s to 1980s. FAR chose to illustrate their epistolary conversations with amateur footage from the archive – trips taken along country roads, weddings, country fairs, farming scenes and happy childhood scenes.

This challenge to chronological narrative means that Histoires Mêlées is able to highlight the differences and especially the similarities from one period to another. The film also compares two methods of communication that enabled twentieth century families to talk about and represent their own lives: letter-writing and amateur filmmaking. While respecting the memories brought back to life in these documents, the film also compiles and structures records that are written, spoken and visual, and gives them a second life. FAR was careful to maintain a link with reality ensuring a process that creates something new while enhancing images from the past.

Histoires mêlées can be seen online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD887JnJpAw&t=3s

FAR would like to thank: the Archives Départementales de Charente-Maritime who made available the Izambard family correspondence; Les Escales Documentaires festival; and Radio Collège, an important school radio station. Without all of this help, the project would not have been possible.

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