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The roar of an engine on the Bourbonnais roads, inside the men of Marshal Pétain's guard who transfer weapons for the maquis. A gunshot breaks out, the driver collapses on the steering wheel, German soldiers emerge from the thickets ... Welcome to the filming of documentary « The Choice of Destiny »Devoted to the Second World War and made by Pierre Bonnet ! After the filming of sequences in Alsace, we meet him in Auvergne to reconstruct the heroic and dramatic hours of the local resistance fighters. He agreed to discuss with us this daring project bringing together more than 150 extras and 300 associative contacts working together towards a common goal: to ensure the duty of remembrance among the younger generations.
"End now with the image of French fighters fleeing the enemy"
Pierre Bonnet hello, the HPT team you have already met on the set of the short film "La section perdue" where you acted as production manager and assistant director, and it is with pleasure that we meet you again as a screenwriter and director of a new project: “The Choice of Destiny”. This documentary is about the Second World War, can you briefly present to us the scenario that you chose to cover in a continuous and structured way the five years which separate the debacle of 1940 of the Liberation?
Pierre Bonnet: The documentary deals chronologically with the events from May 1940 to February 1945, on the journey of men who fought in the ranks of the French army or in the resistance.
The introduction evokes a discussion between a father and his son on the context of the German invasion. The young "Lavandiére", wonders about the future of the Country and does not understand why his hero father of Verdun, so supports Marshal Pétain. The 1940 debacle left nearly 120,000 dead in the French ranks. We must now put an end to the image of French fighters fleeing the enemy. This is why I wanted to tackle this theme with a reconstruction in a fort on the Maginot Line, in order to show an image worthy of our elders during these six weeks of fighting.
The invasion begins, the vote of full powers and the installation of the government of Pétain, various witnesses will contribute to this documentary. The creation of resistance networks in the Allier, particularly in St-Germain des Fossés, was initiated by Captain Privat, a former Air Force officer. We will relive the creation of the group.
Then came the repression, the exactions, the deportation and the massacres of all kinds. Strong testimonies allow us to feel the conditions of the moment.
Finally, the French youth got up, the heads of the Allier youth camps will enroll the young people to go to Langon in Gironde, then their integration into the 9th DIC will follow. The changing of the African regiments is assured, the battles of the Doubs and Upper Alsace loop will be reconstituted and many former members of the 2 ° Battalion of the 6 ° RIC will tell us about their journeys, up to the battles of the Colmar pocket. .
"Many and long searches"
A fairly broad treatment of the subject, therefore, based on the events that took place in Alsace for the invasion and the Liberation, and in Bourbonnais for the resistance. But exactly how did you reconstruct past events? I suppose there is behind this scenario a long work of bibliographical research, but also a recourse to the oral narrative of the survivors as you say for the Elders of the 6th RIC? Is it enough to get close to the truth or are you forced to romanticize?
Pierre Bonnet: Past events have been the subject of much and long research, both with witnesses (more than 20 hours of recording), as well as local historical readings, regimental marches diaries. But also with the services of the ONAC of Allier (Editor's note: Office National des Anciens Combattants), the history societies of Kingersheim and Kembs (68) as well as private collections.
With the collection of these elements I was able to reconstruct these moments as accurately as possible. Lack of shadow areas remain. However, we were not present at these moments, a part of fiction naturally comes to supplement the scenario.
"Maintain the memory, and pass it on to the younger generations"
Indeed, we find here all the tools of historical research for recent history. Your docu-fiction will therefore be strewn with testimonies, the scenes are sometimes filmed on the very places of the events: one feels a strong desire to save a memory in order to perpetuate its transmission. Do you seem to me to be sufficiently committed to the Souvenir Français? Can you tell us about this commitment and the value you place on "duty of memory"?
Pierre Bonnet: My commitment to the Souvenir Français can be summed up as follows:
For several centuries, our country has gone through a multitude of conflicts. The most recent dates back 70 years. What a family has not been touched by contemporary conflicts! The monuments to the Dead remind us of this. Despite all this, I think people quickly forget Too quickly! Certainly for today's young people, the Second World War is no more palpable than the Hundred Years' War. This is explained on the one hand by the increasingly rapid disappearance of witnesses, and on the other hand. part by a lack in the school programs, which in my opinion evoke these periods too quickly. Maintaining memory, and passing it on to younger generations, has therefore naturally become an everyday struggle.
Since 2005, I have been working within the Souvenir Français, through interventions in partnership with witnesses of the Second World War with schools, but also we animate through exhibitions, film screenings or school trips of memory.
Of course, participation in commemorative ceremonies remains an important activity of our association.
This spirit has been instilled in me for many years in the family circle, and since then I have always been very attached to it. Especially since my paternal grandfather is a former French First Army veteran and he fought in the Doubs in Alsace at the end of 1944, where he was also injured.
So now it is up to us to perpetuate the memory and pay tribute to these fighters, whether they are Dead for France or indeed of this world.
"The most important associations of French and German re-enactors"
You therefore provide a platform for veterans and reactivate the memory of the dead, going so far as to have some of them play by your actors. Moreover, one can only be impressed by the quality and the quantity of material which you have available for this shooting: uniforms, various and varied armament, equipment of the French and German armies, but also many vehicles in working order, Willis jeeps, dodges, trucks, Half-tracks and up to Sherman tank and artillery! You finally have tremendous technical resources, you seem to do better than some television productions without, however, having as much financial means as they do: what is your secret? Is it precisely the strength of your commitment to the duty of remembrance that enabled you to rally the associations and the various necessary funds to your cause? Did you find a good echo with the public authorities and the reenactors?
Pierre Bonnet: Indeed, the volume and the quality of actors, materials, vehicles is considerable. We are dealing with real reconstruction professionals! It is also a guarantee of credibility for all.
This project made it possible to federate the most important associations of French and German re-enactors. Be near 150 extras !!! I must say that their commitment to our project is flawless and that thanks to their help and support we were able to make a quality documentary.
The financial means of our association are very modest, a production of this kind would have cost several hundred thousand euros. I believe that everyone's commitment to this project is above all a true unparalleled human adventure, it is almost 300 associative, institutional, media contacts, property owners and I forget some. In short, a challenge met, which will remain engraved for a long time.
The financial aspect is still not neutral, but as you specify I believe that the strength of the commitment will have been a real lever. Approaching institutions is not easy these days, I am lucky to know many elected officials and communities in the Vichyssois basin, so almost all of them supported them from the early hours of the project. I admit having received a good reception, because we could have refused their help. It is not necessarily important to stay more than an hour in a Mayor's office to convince him! For some I did not spend more than 10 min and the agreement in principle was given. Where I would say, I stayed longer in interview, the answer was "we keep you informed ..." I'll let you imagine the next logical step! In the end, the reception of the small Municipalities will have been warmer. Unlike very large communities! As for Alsace, there is another dimension, I don't think I had to make any official requests, the institutions did not contact themselves! The fighting world, will have supported him too, but here I must say that it was much more difficult especially in my Department !!!
"Always looking for sponsors and patrons"
A great adventure in all. Now the shooting is coming to an end, but perhaps you will still need patrons, “sponsors”, support, for the rest of the project? I am thinking particularly of the promotion and dissemination of the final result.
Pierre Bonnet: Our budget is relatively tight, everything will be played out at a few tens of euros on the final part, of course we are always looking for sponsors and patrons to finalize the project.
Promotion will be an important point, we must display a beautiful window, and the best possible rendering in order to distribute the book as much as possible.
"1000 DVDs will be offered for sale from the 2nd Semester 2013"
Maybe some of our readers will react to this call ... You talk about broadcasting, how do you see the future of this docu-fiction? Projections? DVDs?
Pierre Bonnet: Regarding the broadcasts, I plan several preview presentations in Alsace, Allier and Gironde from the 2nd Semester 2013.
Screenings for the benefit of associations of veterans, schools and of course the municipalities that hosted the shooting will be made.
Initially, 1000 DVDs will be offered for sale from the 2nd Semester 2013. Then the thematic and local channels will be approached. Then the film will be presented at various festivals dealing with documentaries.
Hopefully TV channels will be interested, that's all the harm we wish you. How should individuals who wish to acquire a DVD proceed, or sponsors who wish to contribute to your project?
For patrons, my email contact.
Well, Pierre Bonnet, thank you, we will invite our readers to follow your project on the Facebook page dedicated to him. We hope to be able to attend the screenings soon, in the meantime I bring you all the support of the HPT team who welcome your initiative. Good luck to you and see you very soon.
Find more photos and all the news from this documentary on the dedicated Facebook page!
Also discover the production site: Ladeprod.