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Claire Simon

‘My dear friend Mimi’


- In French director Claire Simon's documentary: "Mimi talks to me about her life, and I put her words into pictures"

Claire Simon

The 53rd Berlin Film Festival began and so did the 30th Forum New Cinema, a sidebar section that has launched numerous talents over the years.

This year’s inaugural film was Mimi [+see also:
interview: Claire Simon
film profile
by 38-year-old French director Claire Simon. She has directed numerous short films as well as Sinon oui Ça c’est vraiment toi. Mimi is a documentary about an ordinary woman called Mimi Chiola, and her memories of an ordinary life as the owner of a restaurant in Nice, and a house in the country where she passed the time gardening. Everywoman. But like every woman, Mimi has a story to tell and experiences to relive.

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Tell us how you met Mimi Chiola?
“I have known Mimi for many years and one day, as she was telling me about her childhood, I got the idea for this film. It was significant that I chose not to make a fictional film because I don’t like making films where you have to reconstruct situations or eras. I tried instead to build on a contemporary style of narrating fiction, a documentary.”

What do you mean when you talk about a a new way of portraying fiction?
“One of the many examples I could give to illustrate what I mean is the clothes she wears. Mimi always wears the same blouse, The documentary is to all effects and purposes, constructed, and to stress that fact, I made her wear a costume. That allowed me to give the storyline another time frame. I did not want the viewer to notice the passage of time, I did not want to give an illusion of false reality: I wanted them to see a person who was telling her life story.”

Did you work with a screenplay?
“The whole film is an improvisation. We would go to a place, start filming and waited for the protagonist to talk about her memories. The story begins with the death of her father, her childhood, but I wanted a different location for every part of her life, for every scene to contain a different memory. This is the third film I’ve made in Nice, and I moved around as if I were looking for locations for a new film every time. Some places really relate to Mimi’s childhood, while she had never been to others. I loved shooting the externals with the sounds of the city that broke into violence. I wanted absolute clarity between the story and real life, between memories and the locations we were shooting in.

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