Sophie Fillières Posthumously Wins Directors’ Fortnight Award with ‘This Life of Mine,’ ‘Universal Language’ Wins Audience Award

Late screenwriter-director Sophie Fillières’ seventh and final feature, “This Life of Mine” was the opening film at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight and today wrapped things up as the France Writers’ Guild’s favorite French-language feature, winning the SACD Authors’ Favorite Prize.

In the film, Barbie, once a devoted mother and partner, faces the realities of middle age as she turns 55. Following a classic three-act structure, the film advances from comedy to tragedy to epiphany, at times toying with the absurd.

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Said Anne Villacèque, SACD administrator: “This year, we had to decide from a particularly eclectic selection. Choosing between novel and poetry, right arm and left arm, grandiose or more modest films. We chose the film whose heart beat the strongest and continued to move us long after seeing it.

“A daring, delicate, unpredictable film, the culmination of a work full of dissonance and side steps, as its director liked to say, ” she added. “A film that walks on the edge of the abyss, clumsily, but always valiantly, sowing piles of little white pebbles along its path like so many magic formulas to help us resist. Resisting the darkness of the world, the solitude of early gray mornings, this female dog of life that runs away. Phew! Paf! Youkou! it’s Sophie’s last battle cry, her viaticum for eternity, and her best joke. On behalf of my fellow filmmakers at the SACD, I am very proud and moved to announce that our favorite goes to ‘This Life of Mine’ by Sophie Fillières.”

Fillières’ began shooting “This Life of Mine” in late June of last year, wrapped at the end of July and checked into the hospital the next day. Less than a month later, at only 58 years old, she passed away.

Postproduction was supervised by her children, actors Agathe and Adam Bonitzer, with regular notes that their mother would send from the hospital as it became clear to her that she’d never complete the project herself.

Speaking with Variety ahead of this year’s festival, “Anatomy of a Fall” director Justine Triet, who cast Fillières in a small part in that film, talked about how the fellow filmmaker’s work affected her: “Seeing Sophie’s work for the first time gave me the impression of discovering a tone I didn’t know could exist in French cinema. She pointed out a new way to make films that confronted the difficulties of everyday life in such a unique and humorous tone. And that was so unusual and so very reassuring.”

New this year, Directors’ Fortnight introduced a people’s choice award. Spectators rated their favorite films at the end of each screening. After all votes were cast, the Audience Choice award went to Matthew Rankin’s surrealist film “Universal Language.” The film tells several seemingly disparate stories, set in quaint setting “somewhere between Tehran and Winnipeg.”

The new Audience award comes with a €7,500 ($8,100) purse, supported by the Chantal Akerman Foundation.

In his review of the film “Universal Language,” Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote: “The concept may not be intuitive, but the cross-cultural humor is certainly appealing in this singular satire, which unfolds in a place where French and Farsi are the official tongues.”

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