When he agreed to lead a singing class in a women's detention center, Luc (Alex Lutz, Guy – SFFF 2019), an opera singer recovering from depression following the death of his mother, did not expect to face such a difficult and emotional task.
Most of the women have no real interest in singing. They chose to attend the class to break the routine of their monotonous lives, or because it may help them get parole. Yet, despite some initial reluctance and some disagreement over what to sing, Luc gets the group to find its rhythm. Carole, Jeanine, Noor, Jess, Marzena, and Catherine gradually let themselves be tamed by music and taste a semblance of freedom.
How do you find harmony in seemingly hostile circumstances? As the tension rises inside the prison and between inmates, Luc is faced with the harsh realities of their imprisoned lives, a world he would rather ignore. One of the inmates, Catherine (Agnès Jaoui), the best singer of the lot, particularly intrigue him. She will force him to confront his own demons.
The film is presented through the point of view of Luc. Just like him, we know little of the reasons that led the women to incarceration. We only know what a guard tells Luc when he first arrives at the prison: the women are there on long-term sentences, most of them for violent crimes, domestic killings, drug cases, assaults, etc. At times, we see some of the violence reappear. The female cast is composed of professional (Agnès Jaoui, Veerle Baetens, Marie Berto, and Hafsia Herzi -also director of Good Mother, playing virtually this year at the SFFF) and non-professional actresses (Fatima Berriah and Anna Najder).
Singing Jailbirds celebrates the diversity of music and its capacity to bring people together. The songs Luc teaches range from Bizet's L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from the opera Carmen, to Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj ‘s Bang Bang; from Cum Dederit by Vivaldi to India Song by Jeanne Moreau, and even includes the iconic Où sont les femmes?, Patrick Juvet’s disco hit.
Q&A with Le Professeur Kevin Elstob.
Alex Lutz breaks down the doors and the walls of the female prison world by delivering an operatic singing workshop in Étienne Comar’s second feature film. Fabien Lemercier - Cineuropa
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