WE WERE THERE – Friday evening, the former residents of the workers’ city in red bricks, destroyed in 2019, attended the preview of Gagarin, film devoted to the last hours of the building, selected in Cannes, in 2020. Several of them served as extras.
Friday, 5:30 p.m. In front of the Le Luxy cinema, in the heart of Ivry-sur-Seine, south of Paris, dozens of spectators of all ages wait in front of the closed doors. Everyone greets each other, everyone discusses with enthusiasm: from the first seconds, we can see it clearly, this is not a cinema session like the others. All come to attend the preview of Gagarin, the first feature film by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh devoted to the workers’ city of the same name, itself named in honor of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. An event for the neighborhood, since it is here, just a few meters from the cinema, that the filming of the film evoking the emblematic red brick building, destroyed in 2019, took place.
The film tells the fictional story of Youri, a sixteen-year-old passionate about space, who will do everything to save his residence threatened with demolition, with the help of his friends. A first film for Alseni Bathily, playing the teenager, accompanied by the Caesarized Lyna Khoudri in the role of his friend Diana. And then, above all, several former inhabitants of the imposing building act as extras in the feature film selected in Cannes in 2020.
After a few minutes, the doors finally open. The organizers call to return, but no one is in a hurry, many are those who continue their discussion on the sidewalk. Finally, the room fills up little by little. The atmosphere is joyful: a woman is singing, another sketches a few dance steps, children run in the aisles, while a young girl enthusiastically welcomes her group of friends. Dozens of hugs, kisses and “It’s okay? It’s been a long time!»Burst forth at all times, in defiance of barrier gestures.
The film crew then arrive, in front of a busy room. With, of course, the two directors, but also three of the main actors. “It’s great to have you all in front of us“Enthuses Jérémy Trouilh. “It will be six years since we last saw some of you, two years for those who were with us on the set», Recalls the director. “It’s party tonight!He laughs before the lights go out.
Full of emotion, laughter and applause
The film can begin. The spectators discover the first images, those of archive videos showing the inauguration of the city in 1963, by the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in person. Whispers are heard in the room, people looking amused to see the brand new building, a symbol of modernity at the time. Then, the city as it still was two years ago appears on the screen, and silence reigns. The inhabitants, captivated, rediscover with emotion the emblematic building of the red light district. The film scrolls, and the spectators follow Yuri’s adventures with attention. The lines of humor hit the mark. On several occasions, laughter erupts in the room. And then, of course, the youngest extras can’t help but laugh when they discover themselves on screen.
At the end of the film, the applause is immediate. Once, twice, and even a third. Many “bravosSound, and a few people get up. The directors return to the stage, and briefly recall the reason which led them to make this film: “We came to Ivry seven years ago, and when we discovered Gagarin, we found it too beautiful. We said to ourselves, but why is this going to disappear? And then they explained to us the history of this city, and we said to ourselves that it was absolutely necessary to tell it, in a positive and poetic way.“.
With a good dose of realism, since “there were still some traces of the old inhabitants, and we tried to recover the different elements to put them in our decorations», Explained the director Fanny Liatard. A real race against time for this shoot, since “the first demolition work began», She explained, before calling on stage several of the extras, once again to the applause.
“The atmosphere of the city has been respected“
Once outside, everyone rushes to give their feelings about the film. Some speak with passion, while others, more reserved, emerge slowly. Lise, 37, lived in Gagarin for thirteen years, and was one of the extras. With tears in her eyes, she confides having found the film “magical, very beautiful“. “I had a lot of emotion to see the city again. I was very attached to it, because it was the first apartment I had after leaving my parents’ house. So obviously, it was a symbol of empowerment for me. I loved this place, and besides, we wanted to stay in the neighborhood, we only live a few meters away», She explains. Lise also appreciates the script, “beautiful encounter between fiction and reality“. His 10-year-old son Noan, who lived in the city for seven years, is also very enthusiastic about the film he found “Very good“. He explains that at home, they even hung a Gagarin card as a souvenir.
Gédéon, 20, has a sparkling eye. He too finds that the film “is very well done, that the characters make real“. And above all, he appreciates the image that the film returns, which respects well “ this cohabitation that existed between everyone, there was no problem of racism or between the different communities», He explains. A feeling shared by Mady, 22, who lived in Gagarin for four years: “JI liked it, I think the atmosphere was well respected. On the other hand, I admit that I find it a bit of a shame the way it ends, to tell the truth I had a little trouble understanding», Confides the young man. And this is not the only one: a former resident of the city of about fifty years does not hide it: “I didn’t understand anything. What is this story at the end?She asks herself, almost annoyed. Benjamin, member of the 1000 Faces Association, believes that there has been “lengths not necessarily necessary“, While Esther, 26, found that”the artistic has taken over a little too much, but the film remains very beautiful and very touching, especially in its approach to loneliness.“
But the general appreciation remains positive, and even if the film would not have liked, the evening is a success: the bursts of laughter and the endless discussions testify to it. The actors then mingle with the crowd and chat with the locals, as if they were lifelong friends. Already half an hour since the screening has ended, but the sidewalk in front of the cinema is not yet about to empty.
Trailer of Gagarin, in theaters June 23.