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Michel Gondry

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A Thorn in the Heart: One Less Story Never Told

Posted: 04/06/10 10:57 AM ET

I made a film about my family. The film follows my aunt Suzette, a beautiful 83-year-old woman, who has the most amazing white hair and harmonious lines running on her face because she has had an incredible existence. She taught in the schools of dying villages in a very removed part of France her entire life. In France, as in most industrial countries, the 20th century saw the agricultural world shrinking to the minimum and the populations deserting the countryside for the big cities. Not all of them left though, and Suzette taught the children of those who stayed.

My aunt's hard life made her a strong and avant-garde teacher but didn't prepare her for being a mother. I wanted to explore this contrast and the consequence inflicted upon her son. In this precarious part of France, it's hard to be a woman, harder to be a woman teacher and even harder to be a homosexual like her son who could never even face his own father with it. I feel lucky to have known my Auntie, for all that she has taught me and all her wrongness as well. As a filmmaker, I felt I had the duty to explore and record her path.

Some critics are befuddled as to why a director like me would devote my imagination and creative energies to this woman, who to them is undeserving of any celluloid time. Such contempt for human beings not in the light and privilege of fame is baffling to me. Why do we have to constantly endure the lives of people who don't have one? Why do we have to suffer through the stories of those who don't have one to tell? Why do we have to accept as our reflection people who, as a majority, torture themselves with plastic surgery and turn into pathetic monsters because they can't accept the passing of time upon their appearance?

This is the story of The Thorn in the Heart. See it or don't. Like it or don't. But to ask why an artist chooses to focus on a particular subject undermines the very reason why passionate individuals pick up a camera in the first place. There are a million stories that are never told -- this makes it a million, less one.