We are in a mixed house for minors, a dozen young people, as many educational tutors. Pedagogy consists in trying to create a family spirit (the Mif in verlan), with a vegetable garden and a chicken coop around the house. Young people are free to move “, a house is not a prison “.
From the beginning of the film, a house event is the backdrop: Audrey, a 17-year-old girl, makes love to a 14-year-old boy. Zohra, la jeune éducatrice stagiaire, applique à la règle ce qu’on lui a appris: c’est interdit, il faut prévenir la police, ce qu’elle fait tout en expliquant à Audrey qu’elle n’y peut rien, car her ” the role is to call the police “.
Lora, the director, a field educator, who returns from a prolonged absence for health reasons, is immediately summoned by the office of the management association, which accuses her of ” laxity “. They invoke the fact that they are fragile children, she replies:” Not stupid “. The panic of the governing bodies, while the justice system is kidnapped, is such that they decide without drums or trumpets to reserve from now on the welcome to girls only. The teenagers, between two screaming quarrels, discuss the affair among themselves : some think Zohra shouldn’t have called the police so quickly, others think it’s justified because, in that case, you have to report the sexual abuse. Audrey defends herself: within three months she would have had no consequences. And that’s where you understand (if you have not read anything about the film before) that you are in Switzerland. Indeed, under Swiss law, without constraint, sexual relations between minors are prosecuted if the age difference is greater than three years (per day), while in France, for the moment, the legislation is silent. The director explains to the young people that the vice team must indeed investigate, because ” there is the law above us “.
The Genevan director, Frédéric Baillif, educator, former semi-professional basketball player, shot a first fiction, Red carpetin 2014, in which he films young people from disadvantaged areas of Lausanne interpreting their desire to make films, then Scientific proof of the existence of God (in 2019) with professional and amateur actors. With The Mif, plays girls who have a difficult background, who have lived in a house, but who do not play their own story. They participated in actors’ workshops. Claudia Grob, who plays the role of Lora, is a specialized educator: she has been involved in adult education and has worked for many years at the Youth Foundation in Switzerland where she has directed several institutions for children, adolescents and unaccompanied minors.
Frédéric Baillif tells the story of each of the girls (Audrey, Novinha, Précieuse, Justine, Alison, Caroline) according to scenes that all start with more or less the same fight and the same screams in the corridors of the house. Teenage girls are full of life and in demand. They pass nothing on to their pupils: you always tell us that you are there for us, but we are always alone in our kitchens “. The personal life of the adults who watch over them is also put under pressure (” you talk about protection and you failed to protect your daughter “).
We witness the warm accompaniment of educators who know what these minors have experienced and are experiencing: the lack of affection, an indifferent mother, the sexual abuse of a father, a grandfather, domestic violence. Sexuality (homo, hetero) is very present, in the gestures, in the words, in the provocations of these young people. She ” it is not a crime but a right “Lora says, who knows what” that of adolescents puts adults in all states “. Furthermore, sexual abuse marks the personal stories of these young people but also those of some adults who educate them. We must try to put words to try to avoid the worst, adults pay with their own person, make themselves available, accept to be called at any time of day or night. The director tries to show that not all situations are the same: different girls come from diversity (sometimes without documents) and from poverty, but one is said ” rich girl “.
The dramas experienced are many, some tragic: by staging some individuals, we are faced with the whole panoply of misfortunes. Often violence, but sometimes it was false accusations, and it happens that the alleged parents were not guilty. We go from a barely bearable drama to an uncontrolled fear of cockroaches or spiders. In this ferment of life it happens that we think we are dying. We are left to guess certain dramas, the truth only appears in time. In fact, the film goes back and we see the same scene, completed, we are given the missing link. We will know, for example, that if the administrators were concerned it was because the sexual abuse of a teenager on his younger partner was in danger of leaking to the press (who adore him), which would have given a bad image of the institution.
Despite the almost permanent tensions, these teenagers experience the place as a family. One says in no uncertain terms that she made herself ” a new family “. Despite the crises, the screaming encounters, the understanding between young people is much stronger than that of adults who tear themselves apart as soon as Lora receives the order to leave for slapping a mother who insulted her. solidarity crumbles very quickly and some only aim at their small (career) interest, as in real life, not only in Switzerland, even if these rivalries or betrayals are sometimes more subdued.
If some passages seem exaggerated, like the restaurateur firing an intern because she arrived late, or too dramatized, like the director’s firing, this fictional film seems quite close to reality: educators and young people are likely to recognize each other. They and they will find there the questions that revolve around the professional distance and the emotional and human implications that shake their daily life; the necessary and at the same time binding legal framework does not facilitate more humanistic support. We can also say to ourselves, faced with this reality made up of a painful past and an experience in a home far from being a long calm river, that these young people are ill-prepared to face the future, the outside, when one day they will have to find themselves alone in the city and in life.
This clarity leads us to perceive this film as more convincing than many documentaries which, in an attempt to reach an unattainable reality, feel obliged, for lack of professional ethics, to highlight very real facts, but isolated and staged, to attract the public, instead of honestly witnessing the complexity of this field of social action.
In many ways, this film has similarities with Positioned, also a fictional film about teenagers placed in a social children’s home. The director, Nassim Chikhaoui, likes that of The Mif, is a former educator who proclaims: educator, those were the best years of my life “.
This film The Mif it was awarded in the Generation 14Plus section of the Berlinale 2021, at the Zurich Film Festival 2021 and won the Bayard d’Or at the Namur French Film Festival 2021. Released in theaters in France on March 9, 2022.
. see interview by Frédéric Baillif and Claudia Grob by Firouz E. Pillet on J: Mag: here.
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