The day after the January 11, 2015 demonstration in reaction to the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks, Libération ran the headline "Nous sommes un peuple" ("We are a people"), and Alice Diop wondered about this overwhelmingly white crowd. Following in the footsteps of François Maspero in his book Les Passagers du Roissy-Express (Seuil, 1990), she decided to embark on a long journey along line B of the RER, in search of all those "others" who are not in the picture. The journey highlights a territory of contrasts. Sketching a choral portrait of Parisians caught up in their daily lives, the director freely weaves the tale of a possible "us". "If there are indeed worlds living on the edge of each other, the film aims to weave a link and a path between these islands", she says.
“What is interesting about We [...] is in what appears at the beginning and at the end, fictional moments, as a prologue and coda, where white people appear in hunting scenes in some nearby forests. This framework of colonial criticism of the beginning and end of the film, places the most evident documentary device in an interstitial space, between these two worlds or hegemonic discourses. That is to say, the way in which Diop structures this documentary, of the registry of the suburbs tucked between these forests, animals in the sights and hunters, is verifying the way in which other discourses about blackness are buried, and that she symbolically centers, at the end of accounts. A political documentary that she supports her thesis in a non-condescending social criticism.”
Article published on Desistfilm for the 2021 Berlinale Festival.
“CD: When I saw We, I didn't think to myself: "This is a documentary" – as if it was something theoretical. I saw something that talked about you, Alice, your life, your family, how you saw this famous journey of the RER B. I had read the book that you quote in the film [Francois Masperos Les Passagers du Roissy Express, 1990] a long time ago. Now, I am not a Parisian, and when I read this book about the journey of RER B through Paris from Charles de Gaulle to Orly, this route felt like the ideal route for me, because I knew Paris, but I didnt have an emotional relationship with the Paris region. I had family there, I had my grandparents, but I had grown up far away in Africa and so I always had the feeling that I was a foreigner, that I didn't belong. It was the cinema that gave me a home.
AD: You know every time I shoot a movie, I rewatch your movies. Every time. For Saint Omer as much as for We. Theres an image in Sen fout la mort in which Alex Descas and Isaach de Bankolé are walking across a bridge. That image is in We. And in fact sometimes I think: "Have I borrowed that image? Have I extended it? Have I plagiarised it?" What I mean is that you can borrow so much from the work of someone who speaks to you and penetrates you that you feel like you're making films that expand something you saw in that film.
CD: There is no plagiarism in cinema, because cinema is the place where you recognise yourself. And of course, you inevitably return to the places where you recognise yourself. 'Take myself. I've never filmed in a courtroom, but when I saw Saint Omer [...] I recognised the accused. I knew her, this woman.”
- 1Catherine Wheatley, "Alice Diop in Conversation with Claire Denis", Sight and Sound, Vol. 33, No. 2, March 2023.
“Alice revendique ainsi d'être là : voix-off, dialogues, présence à l’écran. Cela fait de Nous un manifeste, non pas un refrain lénifiant sur le vivre ensemble mais un combat contre la fragmentation de la société et contre l’exclusion. Il ne s'agit pas de nier les différences, difficiles à surmonter. Chacun appartient à son huis-clos. C'est dès lors en reconnaissant la beauté des êtres qui peuplent les images que le « nous » est un devenir en construction. C’est dans cette exigence que ce film est politique. Pour écrire enfin une histoire commune, il revendique une place. Et c’est à cette condition qu’il peut proposer une relation.”