The young French actress has won the award for best female performance for ‘The story of Annette Zelman‘, in which she gets into the skin of this Jewish woman who lives a love story with a tragic ending, as she is denounced to the Gestapo by the father of her fiancé. In an interview with Go Aragón, she highlights the good reception by young people of this film, which shows a story that can still be learned from today.
After more than 600 competition screenings from 82 different countries, the Saraqusta Film Festival concluded this Friday with a gala in Zaragoza where the winners of this third edition were announced. The award for Best Actress went to Ilona Bachelier for her leading role in ‘The Story of Annette Zelman’, directed by Philippe Le Guay. The actress plays Annette, a French Jewish woman who is sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp on June 22, 1942, during the German occupation and deportation of Jews, which cuts short her love story.
Annette and Jean’s is a true story told by Laurent Joly in ‘Dénoncer les Juifs sous l’Occupation’ (‘Denouncing the Jews under Occupation’), which Annette’s own sister, Michèle Zelman, has been generous enough to share today. The film reconstructs the last months of this couple in “a love story caught in a mortal coil” and has the vocation to reach young viewers. Something he has achieved, as he leaves this festival with another statuette under his arm, the Youth Jury Prize, awarded by students from different educational centers.
You have already seen the Saraqusta Film Festival awards, how do you feel?
I am very happy and proud of the film, and also that the young audience has voted for the film. It’s great, and it’s a story like this one, which is real. It’s a real honor.
How has the film been received so far?
Very good, especially the people who have seen it have been very moved by the story of these people and by the way Philippe Le Guay, the director, tells it. The spectators were moved, including young people. There have been screenings for young people, who have been very moved and have asked themselves many questions. It’s a great thing, because it’s something that resonates with young people today.
The first scene of the film presents your character at the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, but a few months earlier your life was very different. How does your situation change?
In the beginning, before she ends up in the concentration camp, Annette is a young woman in her twenties, full of life. Yes, she lives in a country that is at war, occupied, but she has the joy and adaptability of her age.
WHAT SHE WANTS IS TO LIVE, SHE DOES NOT WANT TO LIVE IN FEAR.
On the contrary, her parents do not want her to go out, but she just wants to live. In an innocent way, Annette wanted to live in the present moment without thinking about the future. In fact, despite all the vicissitudes, the denunciation makes her world collapse, her love is immobilized and she has to leave her family behind. But he will keep all the future he imagined and the joy he had. Despite this desire to live, she will be held back.
What were the big challenges in interpreting this character?
In a very concrete way, there was the language issue, because back then they spoke in a different way than we do today.
And then, something that has been a little pressure for me has been to be in the skin of this real woman, who has lived this story. In fact, her sister is still alive and I was lucky enough to meet her before shooting, along with the actress who plays her in fiction. But on the other hand, we had the desire to nurture the story, to tell it as it should be told, knowing that I will never be Annette, because I am not Annette. In the end, with a director who is very kind in his work and with the whole team, we put all our skills at the service of the story.
Personally, what impressed you most about this story?
Two things. Annette and Jean’s bravery made an impression on me. What impressed me most is their strength, because they are 20 years old. I’m 25, and I admire that they had, at 5 years younger, that strength to fight, to keep hope and to do what they believed was right, despite what society says. And from Anette, I admire her ability to keep that will to live, despite everything that happens to her. The way the Zelman family faced life in general, that even in the context of war they sang and danced; Michelle told us that they were very happy and full of love, and that is a strength. That has marked me and is something I would like to reproduce in my life.
Can we learn any lessons from Annette Zelman’s story?
I think so. Because it’s about two very young people who had heroic behavior in fighting for what they think. And all this taking into account that there is a whistleblower story, in which Jean’s father is a whistleblower. Unfortunately, these situations are still present today, in France and in other countries.
PERHAPS IT SHOULD REMIND US THAT LOVE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, REGARDLESS OF WHERE IT COMES FROM AND WITHOUT HAVING TO BE LABELED BY SOCIETY.
Finally, was it your first time in Zaragoza and what are your impressions of the Saraqusta Festival?
Yes, it was my first time in Zaragoza, although not in Spain. Unfortunately, I could not stay very long, I would have really liked to stay a little longer. Even so, I was able to walk around the city and the old town, which I found very pleasant. I especially loved being able to have a drink outside, in front of the Basilica del Pilar, which is very beautiful from the outside. In addition, I really liked the mix of cultures.
As for the festival, we were very well received by its director, José Ángel Delgado, and Patricia Naya. They received us very well and, although we do not share the same language, we understood each other very well. It was a pleasure to be together.