I recently had the chance to take part with other writers in a roundtable interview with Polisse director Maïwenn. The film tells the story of the Child Protection Unit of the Paris Police. Most of the interview was in English, but there was an interpreter present to help her from time to time.
Maïwenn mentioned serving an internship with the CPU as part of her research for the film. She was asked if it was hard to be accepted by the police while researching them.
Well, some of them were quite rude with me and suspicious about my ability to make a movie. First of all I’m a woman and women with policemen is difficult, but I’m used to it. As soon as you’re given power and you’re a woman, you have to deal with men. It was okay for me to deal with.
She was asked about casting herself in the role of a photojournalist and if there are such people involved with the CPU.
Sometimes they take a cameraman or a journalist, but I decided to add this part because it was a way to help the audience to identify. It’s the community of the normal spectator—the way she thinks, the way she looks at the Child Protection Unit, it’s the way everybody watches. When you see a documentary, it’s the same point of view.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The greatest challenge was to not fall into showing the subject as a dramatic subject, like teary-eyed. I didn’t want to put the cops as heroes and put the victims as eternal victims and put the pedophiles as the mean people. To me that is too easy. I wanted to transmit the emotion I was into when I did the internship. My emotion that I felt, it was so much empathy with the pedophile. Of course I loved those cops, but sometimes I was upset with them. They could have been racist sometimes or homophobic. For me they are not heroes in the same way that pedophiles are not mean people, they’re just sick people. I wanted to transmit this kind of feeling to the movie.
How did you go about casting the film?
Well, most of the time I wrote for the cast that I knew. I was looking for actors who were popular in the sense of how they talk, their voice, their temperament. They had to be popular. I didn’t want them to look like intellectuals. I want it to feel like they come from the streets.