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It was with an approach rooted in doubt that I began the creation of CETTE MAISON (This House). At each stage of the film's process, one question kept coming up: would I have the courage to tell this story? I looked to the women in my family, to my cousin, to her mother. I had no choice but to move forward, despite the doubts I had.

With this hybrid project (somewhere between documentary and fiction) I address similar questions to those that have inhabited my previous films: how to restore the image of Black bodies and humanize them? How to survive exile? As a child of the colonies, a child of the islands, a child of immigrants, I felt compelled to examine the conflicting nature of my relationship to the land. Addressing themes similar to those of my short films with the scope of a feature allowed me to rely on the conviction that a freer form could evoke more than the reality of a tragedy.

The raison d'être of this project is rooted in a sense of injustice and a search for courage. This film is a way to honour my cousin. I tried to give her a voice, while joining her with my own. Together we inhabited empty spaces and abandoned places, crossing different eras in order to create new memories from old experiences of our common past. Memories that violence can no longer alter. It would have been easy to take a confrontational approach, to denounce, to get angry and let this anger absorb the whole film. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

I tried to document with a certain tenderness the shockwave of a violent act through time. By constructing its history, its archeology, I tried to highlight the possibility of building and creating from a traumatic event and then freeing oneself from it. The tangibility of this tragedy escapes me. This project is like a journey towards the future, a journey that leads us to a multiplicity of times.

I wanted to tell a love story between a mother and her daughter. A story that pushes the limits of reality, the limits of death.

To do this, I have favoured the form of the essay, because it allows me to be nuanced. It is by adding my personal interpretations to these nuances that I have woven the main thread of CETTE MAISON. This one is very simple. I wanted to tell a love story between a mother and her daughter. A story that pushes the limits of reality, the limits of death. Inevitably, the death of my cousin in 2008 shook a good part of my convictions.

The journeys in time (Bridgeport—Haiti—Laval) towards inner memories are an integral part of the story that is told off-screen. It was essential for me to anchor the different chronologies of the narratives that would serve to guide the spectator without offering all the answers. The text, recited by three women's voices (the mother, the young girl, and my own), transports the spectator beyond the places visited by the image. It is often said that sound makes us travel more easily and thus opens up our imagination. To interpret my cousin, it was important for me to imagine her as an adult, both physically and through her voice. This choice allowed me to imagine a maturity that my cousin will never know.

Like a journey through grief, the comings and goings in time offer a reflection on memory and the after-effects that remain when one is confronted with violence. From the beginning of the film, I had this desire to tell the story of violence without literally showing it. My approach is not linked to a search for truth, but rather to a quest for meaning. The beginning of a story devoid of violence.

Miryam Charles

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