Last week was a very exciting week for me. Before heading off to New York, the French Film month had begun in Cuba, and the Friday before we had gone to the opening night to see Les Intouchables, the second biggest box office success in French history. For me the film managed to stay just the right side of sentimentality due to a storming performance by Cesar winning Omar Sy. I had tears in my eyes by the end, and it was clear that the packed Chaplin cinema crowd had enjoyed it immensely. A feel good film based on a true story. A wonderful evening finished off with a few friends joining us in front of the sea in our house.
We have always enjoyed a good relationship with the French in Cuba and there is a mutual appreciation for French independent Cinema and what the Film school represents. Last year we met Isabelle Huppert, a French icon but this year I got to meet Sandrine Bonnaire, the new French star, who is much more than just a pretty face. I had managed to watch a couple of her recent films before meeting her and was already intrigued before her visit to the school. Her documentary about her autistic sister is really powerful and well worth watching. Monday came and although I was really crazy preparing to leave the children for 4 nights and go to New York I had to get myself to the school.
Immediately, I felt a connection with Sandrine as a person and a woman even amongst all the inevitable protocol of a formal visit. She was so unaffected, so warm. You could see her desire to answer the questions from the students, as honestly and openly as she could. She seemed genuinely interested in the school and Cuba, kept sneaking cigarettes between every formality and had a charming nervous humility that surprised me for such a seasoned star.
I spoke English with her as she said her English was better than her Spanish, but I felt bad about losing my French because I wanted to speak French to Sandrine. Suddenly it didn’t seem to matter that she was this hugely successful star and I am just another mother living on the edge of this world of cinema, observing it from outside. If I ever get that script written I will send it to Sandrine, I dreamed to myself as I drove home, rushing to see the children and pack for New York. She wants to make a film for children next, so I’ll be waiting with my little francophones!
We invited her to come back to the school to teach a masterclass. I really hope she comes back as I would be first on the list to join that class. I can still understand French quite well, its just when I try to speak that Spanish starts to mix up with the French still in my hard drive. Hopefully our trip to Paris in the summer will revive it. Doing French grammar homework with the boys is drumming some of it back into my head too!