French Culture Guide

French Culture in New York, with a Touch of Paris

Tribeca Film Festival Review: Maïwenn’s Polisse

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The Tribeca Film Festival plays host to films from all over the world and is known the world over for its diversity. This year, the selection of French films at the festival is representative of the diversity of French cinema itself. At French Culture Guide, we’ll be reviewing just a few of the several French and Francophone films showing at Tribeca, which kicked off April 18 and closes April 29. The first up is Polisse, a drama from French actress-turned-filmmaker Maïwenn.


Polisse chronicles the lives of the members of the CPU – the Child Protection Unit, a branch of the police force that handles crimes involving children. Maïwenn appears in the film as a photographer covering the unit. As was to be expected, there were scenes that pushed audience members to the edge of their seats, scenes that inspired gasps of shock, and those that left a weighted silence in the wake of their intense emotion. What you wouldn’t expect, however, is that peppered among these scenes were those that elicited spurts of genuine, and welcome, laughter.


Maïwenn spent a month with the CPU and all of the cases depicted in the film are ones she witnessed or heard of while conducting her research, but the realistic depiction of the lives of the officers wouldn’t be complete without moments of levity. As Maïwenn said in a Q&A after the Tribeca premiere, laughing is how the officers push away the sadness.


In sum, Polisse is a fascinating look at how the emotionally taxing work in the CPU affects all aspects of the officers’ lives. “C’est un effet mirroir,” Maïwenn explained to the Tribeca audience.


Maïwenn’s talent as a filmmaker is certainly clear with this latest effort, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and was nominated for thirteen César awards in 2012. Polisse may pick up a few more at Tribeca (it’s in the running for the Heineken-sponsored audience favorite award), and we can hope that these trophies will give the French drama the push it needs to make it to U.S. theaters outside the festival circuit soon.


By Monica Burton