“Free Madder! » : the political commitment grasped at the height of a child


A remote village in the Cévennes mountains, a stretching summer, an 11-year-old girl who observes the adults and, the rest of the time, invents games with the girls and a boy of her age. Everything in Free Garance! by Lisa Diaz, makes fear the umpteenth conventional film on childhood – often the subject of the first feature films (as is the case here), which, tirelessly, put the same affects and the same situations back to work. Awakening to life and to the body facilitated by the holidays, discovery of the first love thrills, emancipation and transition to adulthood…

However, it is a film untied from these patterns that the young director Lisa Diaz signs, previously author of several award-winning short films and whose first feature surprises by the side step it operates, approaching the world of childhood from a political history – and the way it will be transmitted.

We are in 1982, in a hamlet of the Cévennes reinvested by a community of forty-somethings on the left, former city dwellers who have opted for a return to nature, vegetable gardening and goat breeding. Among them, Simon (Grégory Montel), Marie (Lolita Chammah) and their two daughters, Louise, 8 years old (delicious Jeanne Vallet de Villeneuve), and Garance, 11 years old (Azou Gardahaut Petiteau), the young heroine of the film, whose gaze not only guides us, but determines the course of the story.

Because, if she likes to roam the countryside and invent stories, Garance especially takes pleasure in listening to adults who, during long dinners copiously drunk, exchange, yell at each other, quibble over ideas and get angry over verdicts with accents definitive. The girl does not understand everything, but understands the reproaches that her mother addresses to her father, in particular to be satisfied with her fate, with society as it is, with the inequalities that persist.

She hears the father answer his wife “to go there, she, to Chile” join the revolutionary movement, since she says she is so committed, in solidarity with those who fight with arms, such as those of the “Baader gang” or the Red Brigades. Garance tries to decipher, interprets, forms her own opinion, draws her conclusions.

romantic paths

Also when, in the village, police arrive in search of an Italian activist on the run (Simone Liberati) after his robbery of a nearby bank, and when, a few days later, the father announces to his daughters that their mother is gone, Garance is neither fooled nor ignorant, and will not be fooled. Because she knows that the two events are linked. That Marie is not with a friend, in order to distance herself as Hélène (Lætitia Dosch), the friend of the family, claims; but that she joined the Italian to lead the revolutionary struggle alongside the comrades.

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“Free Madder! » : the political commitment grasped at the height of a child