On the Rise French Filmmaker David Depesseville Talks Orphan Drama ‘Astrakhan’, Prepares ‘Les Nuits d’Octobre'(EXCLUSIVE)


MARRAKECH — Director “Astrakhan” David Depesseville follows his first feature film, which plays in men’s competition at the Marrakech Film Festivalwith a second film about another real-life French child drama.

Although he is keeping the more specific details a secret, he has written the script for his follow-up film, which he will also direct. Carole Chassaing produces.

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“October Nights” is, he says Varietybased on the true story of a child murdered in France in 2005, followed by a trial in 2015. Depesseville looks at how the story was told in France.

“I took a lot of notes. I was very involved in this trial. This is my account of what happened.

On a slightly lighter note, filming is scheduled for next fall of a short film about three brothers reunited by the death of their mother entitled “Le Tremblement”.

“Every movie has the right length and the right medium,” he says of his decision to make a short film.

The dark story behind “Astrakhan” isn’t the type of story you’d expect to hear sitting by a shimmering blue pool on a clear, sunny day in Marrakech.

But Depesseville, the unassuming guy who waits for an interview while staring at the water from a table adorned with empty glasses, unearthed a rather disturbing story in “Astrakhan.”

His first feature film tells the story of an orphan sent to live in the Morvan in France with a family paid to take care of him.

The story is inspired by a real case in this region of France where Depesseville grew up.

“Le Morvan was the French department that welcomed orphans from the rest of France,” he explains. “Poor families were paid to take in orphans. The starting point of this film is the transaction between money and feelings. Families needed money. Orphans wanted to belong to a family.

Depesseville grew up with friends from orphan families. “In a village, there are about fifty orphans. It’s a special atmosphere. It stopped in the 1960s and 1970s, but there are traces,” he said.

It is also part of his own family history. His grandfather was an orphan who later had a large family. “I carry part of his story with me,” he added.

It goes without saying that he cried several times while making the film. “It’s a bit of a taboo subject but people needed to share their stories,” he commented of collecting testimonies over the seven years it took him to complete the film, at the budget of €690,000 ($710,700).

“In 2015, I discovered a support system for writers at the CNC. Unfortunately, my first producer then blocked the rights for a few years, but with my current producer I found the money,” he said.

Their distributor, New Story, and the department of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté also contributed funding. The producers of the film are Carole Chassaing and Anaïs Feuillette.

Depesseville had to decide how to tell the story. The film includes a scene that shows the actual orphan cemetery where there are no names on many graves.

“Some died alone in hospitals or were abandoned by their families,” he said.

But the darkness of the hospital deaths he kept out of the film. “I wanted a little light in the film. I also wanted it to be a universal childhood story,” he said. “That part was too difficult.”

The film had its world premiere at Locarno this summer and will then be screened at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival. It will be released in France at the beginning of February.

From November 11 to 19, the Marrakech Film Festival ends this Saturday with an award ceremony.

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