PLESSIS’ GIRLS / Elles…Les Filles du Plessis
North American Premiere • TV Movie • Drama • France, 2016
Blu-ray • Color • 90 min
Directed by: Bénédicte Delmas
Written by: Bénédicte Delmas, Sylvie Granotier
Produced by: K’ien Production
Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire (La Directrice), Blandine Bellavoir (Dominique), Jean-Michel Martial (Aimé), Roxane Bret (Marie-France), Noémie Merlant (Brigitte)
International Sales: Film and Picture
Original Broadcast: France 3, March 8, 2016
Actress Bénédicte Delmas’ directing debut brings to light a little known chapter of the struggle for women’s rights in France. Originally airing on International Women’s Day, the film was a surprise hit. The year is 1971. Nestled deep in a secluded oak grove, a neo-Gothic chateau has been converted into a “technical college” for teenaged, unwed mothers. The institution promises a safe, supportive environment where girls can carry their children to term, regardless of the circumstances of their pregnancy. The reality is something else. The primary concern of the staff seems to be preventing scandal for the girls’ families. As for the girls, they are treated as lost causes that must be set on a narrow moral path by stern authority; their children, if not their entire futures, are in the hands of others. Bridgette, Jacqueline and Marie-France are among the girls who want another option: the right to abortion. And they are willing to fight for it.
Writer/director Bénédicte Delmas was reading a biography of Simone de Beauvoir when she came upon a passage about a hunger strike in an institute for “fallen women”. Curious, she researched the story and found a 1974 short documentary Les enfants du gouvernement. After tracking down the director Claude Lefevre-Jourde, Delmas knew it was time to retell this story. From her early career as a model Delmas was cast as the young doctor Laure Olivier in the French soap Sous le soleil, a role she played for nearly a decade. Increasingly interested in directing, Delmas began directing the show. Then in 2008, she enrolled as a film student at Le Fémis. Delmas wrote the script with Sylvie Granotier, who as an actress has graced French TV screens since 1977.