It’s not easy to direct a film, to stand behind the camera and be able to see the ready project in your head before its even done, unless, you have an enormous and rich imagination that helps you to envision what the rest of the world is about to see in the theaters. Emmanuelle Bercot is a filmmaker with a big name, whose impressive work talks for itself, and Standing Tall can be used as undeniable evidence to that.
After the success she sees with Standing Tall, Emmanuelle Bercot tackles another difficult storyline, but this time, based on a true story. 150 Milligrams follows the glaring reality that we live in a time where pharmaceutical companies release medicines not for the sake of saving our lives, but rather to make money for their own good.
Irène Frachon, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Inferno, Westworld), a pulmonologist at the teaching hospital in Brest makes a shocking discovery. The highly popular medicine, Mediator, used by many to lose weight, instead caused a heart valve disease that took 500 lives. The story begins in 2007 when Irène finds cases of heart damage in patients, some of whom she knew personally. How the story is or will unfold, of course, you will get a chance to find out, by simply waiting when it come out to your nearest theaters, or by simply googling Irène Frachon to find out how great and brave a human being she is.
During the Toronto International Film Festival, I sat down with Emmanuelle Bercot, with whom I had a great pleasure talking about her work, 150 Milligrams and what we need to learn from it.
MOVIEMOVESME: How did you find out about the story and what motivated you to make a film about it?
Emmanuelle Bercot: The producer of the movie contacted me. I’d read the book but wasn’t interested in the beginning. But when I met the doctor, then I realized there was a character there that I would like to work with. The dynamism and personality of the character motivated me to do it.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was your collaboration with the doctor like?
Emmanuelle Bercot: At the end of the day the producer decided that I was he best person to make this movie and follow her story. The doctor was always involved in the process of the film. Basically the creation of the book is covering half of the film, everything after that is not in the book. That is why she was involved all along because the first half was written and the second half was basically never written and we had to be introduced to a lot of the people involved.
MOVIEMOVESME: From my perspective it seemed like you didn’t like pharmaceutical companies and their practices. Your comments?
Emmanuelle Bercot: I don’t have a particular bond with the industry because they are doing business based on people’s health problems. I did the film not from my point of view, so at the end of the day it’s what people went through and the facts and figures. My point of view is personal to me.
MOVIEMOVESME: How did you envision the film in a way so that viewers stay engaged throughout the story?
Emmanuelle Bercot: The story itself is very complex and technical. I tried not to make it too complex but rather accessible, humane. The lead character has a lot of energy and a war machine herself and basically the logic was to have the public understand what she was trying to achieve. It was really put from a human perspective and that’s really important.
MOVIEMOVESME: What is it in stories that interests you as a filmmaker?
Emmanuelle Bercot: Being a director is my trade of life. Being close to reality, social situations and politics interests me; that’s where I can be myself. I’m empowered by stories such as in 150 milligrams and standing tall. I try to push people and make them change, instead of changing the system or government; that’s where I come from.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was your goal when making this film?
Emmanuelle Bercot: This film is based on a real story. I wanted to put the spotlight on the story. I believe the story should be known by more people. The logic of the film is basically to push some people; those who identify themselves in similar situations but don’t do anything. My objective is to make those people feel like they can do something and change the society. I want people to have more courage and do what has to be done.