Fragments of a Life Loved: Professor Chloé Barreau Presents Film at Venice Film Festival
Chloé Barreau is a Paris-born director, creative producer, and JCU Communications professor who has been living in Rome for 20 years. She directed the documentary film Frammenti di un percorso amoroso (Fragments of a Life Loved), which has just been screened at the Venice Film Festival. The film chronicles the life of Professor Barreau, the filmmaker, based on interviews with her past lovers. The documentary will premiere on September 30 at the Cinema Troisi in Trastevere. Professor Barreau is teaching the Promotional Videos course in Fall 2023.
Tell us a little bit about the conception of the project. Where did the idea come from?
Ten years ago, I made my first documentary La faute à mon père, about my parents’ love story. It was a huge scandal in France because my father was a Catholic priest who left the church to marry my mother in the 1970s.
The home-movie documentary genre is much more common in the U.S. than in Europe. The challenge was to take a personal story and make it relevant for the audience. I have always been interested in love and I have a rich “love history” that I have filmed, as I do with the rest of my life. So, I thought it would be interesting to make a documentary with the huge amount of material at my disposal. Since I didn’t want it to be autobiographical, I asked my past lovers to tell their side of the story.
Why did you decide to do it now, in 2023?
Because it’s all part of the process of becoming aware of being a director, which took a long time for me. I think it’s especially difficult for women to tell these kinds of stories. I believe that the MeToo Movement was very important because it contributed to making many production companies realize that they should give more space to women and female narratives. For example, Groenlandia, the production company that is producing my film, created the Lynn division to promote women’s projects, and when they called for proposals, I sent mine. I started work on this project in 2015 but it wasn’t until three years later, when MeToo took off, that the right context eventually emerged to present a film with such a private, personal, and female point of view.
You presented the film in Venice in early September. How was it received?
It was amazing. I was really surprised. The film was presented at the Giornate degli Autori (an independent section of the Venice Film Festival) and there was an extremely positive response from the media because there are very few documentaries about love. It is a subject that is kind of ignored in the documentary genre and I always found it strange because it’s such an important part of our lives. I think the audience could identify with the experience of love and were fascinated with the idea of asking ex-lovers to tell their side of the story. There is a way of telling a story to engage viewers and make them feel like “intruders in the room.” Using private footage conveys intimacy, and I think the more personal a story is, the more universal it can be.
How did you approach the interview process?
I sent my past lovers a letter in the mail, a romantic gesture, in order to invite them. They weren’t very surprised, but it was not easy for everyone to get involved. I prepared the interview with a co-author, with the aim of illustrating every kind of love: long-distance relationships, one-night stands, the long-lasting ones, and the brief ones. Every character was there to explain one kind of love and it was surprising to see what they had to say. I wasn’t present during the interviews because I wanted them to be able to speak freely and to say negative things as well. I knew there would be many things I wouldn’t be proud of, a lot of dark sides, but at the same time those were the things I was looking for. It was necessary for the story to have conflict and be truthful and honest. I used all kinds of emotions for the dramatic construction of the film that eventually had to “sweat love.” We are the sum of our loves, and the whole process was also therapeutic.
In your opinion as a filmmaker, what makes a good story?
A good story is something that you are curious about: you want to know how it ends, and you can’t stop watching. All stories have similar ingredients: the hero who is going through a change, the obstacle, the antagonist, but it’s the way the stories are told that varies. I have been working on short communication for a long time, and it probably helped me to use what I call “emphatic editing.” Through this project, using my past, I’m trying to do something that is entertaining and makes viewers think about their lives.
What lies ahead for the film?
It really took a lot of perseverance and patience to make this film, and since it was my first time working with a big company, I had to defend my vision for it. Groenlandia was a great opportunity, and I took it, and now that the film is out, I’m enjoying the great success it’s having, proof that I was right about the vision of the project. After the premiere on September 30 at Cinema Troisi in, I will tour Italy to promote it. Frammenti di un Percorso Amoroso is also in the running for a David di Donatello award in the Best Documentary category.
Frammenti di un percorso amoroso will also be screened October 3 at 9:30 pm at the Cinema Troisi in Trastevere. Professor Barreau will be present for a Q&A session with the audience.