“Averroès & Rosa Parks”, Nicolas Philibert in the privileged space of the caregiver-patient relationship


A year after filming the original space of L’Adamant ( Sur L’Adamant , 2023), a barge housing a day hospital on the waves of the Seine, in Paris, and winning the Golden Bear for it. the Berlinale 2023, Nicolas Philibert persists, opening the sails of a documentary triptych devoted to psychiatry. Averroès & Rosa Parks is the second part, before The Typewriter and Other Sources of Hassles , whose release is scheduled for April 17, which is installed in the units of the same name at the Esquirol hospital, in Saint- Maurice (Val-de-Marne), formerly referred to as the “Charenton asylum”.

The film opens with drone views of the site with its grid architecture, shown to residents who, struggling to find their way around, immediately underline its imposing scale like the prison kinship. We will find here, on occasion, certain patients already encountered on L’Adamant , in the previous part – including François, who sang La Bombe humaine , from Telephone -, these units making up the same network, that of the Paris psychiatric center. Center, where everyone is required to move from one “house” to another.

Where Sur L’Adamant painted the portrait of a place and those who meet there, Averroès & Rosa Parks focuses more readily on words. Although it includes some scenes of workshops or discussion groups, it is nevertheless the one-on-one psychiatric interview that forms the main body of the film. Nicolas Philibert invests this privileged space of the caregiver-patient relationship, thanks to extensive blocks which plunge directly into the course of the discussions, without any other form of context.

Shot-reverse shot

In front of the camera, different patients follow one another, with the time it takes, which varies, for the suffering to be stated, touched upon or simply located. Here, a man fears leaving the hospital while worrying about the possibility, outside, of combining religious practice and respect for secularism. A second identifies his dead ancestors with other very real residents. A teenage girl with a shaved head is recovering from a drug-induced suicide attempt. One intends to expunge his feeling of guilt by accessing the status of taxable citizen. These are people that the film reveals, and with them life journeys, sections of experience.

Philibert’s art is that of the “clear line” documentary, where the patient approach blends into a clear syntax that seems to flow naturally. Thus, Averroès & Rosa Parks explore an elementary figure of cinema, namely the shot-reverse shot, which, confronting the interlocutors, distributing speech and silences, covers a strong issue of communication. Because, between the practitioner and the patient, things are far from obvious: how to ensure that we are talking about the same things, to recognize distress or a need?

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