The two actresses have in common a young career in the cinema. They talk about their new roles in Catherine Corsini’s latest film and their relationship to acting, which they still do part-time.
The return by Catherine Corsini is one of the 21 films in the running for the Palme d’or. Khedidja (Aissatou Sagna Diallo) and her daughters Jessica (Suzy Bemba) and Farah (Esther Gohourou) return to Corsica, the island they left in disaster fifteen years ago. This summer return also rhymes with new romantic experiences for young women. After the presentation of their film, we met on the Croisette the actresses Aissatou Sagna Diallo and Esther Gohourou who are mother and daughter on screen.
Franceinfo Culture: The character of Khedidja, the mother you play Aissatou Sagna Diallo, is more reserved given her dramatic past on the island that we guess at the start of the film. His daughters are obviously more relaxed. Especially Farah, your character Esther Gohourou, who annoys everyone. How did you build your characters?
Esther Gohourou: To be Farah, to be me (laughs)! My role was not complicated to work because I recognize myself a lot in Farah. I’m the one who’s a bit restless (smiles). Everything was not easy but I liked this character. However, when you start to understand Farah’s role, it hurts to know that she’s doing all this because she’s looking for attention. She feels compelled to do anything to get people to notice her even though she is obviously noticed by her mother, who in the end still doesn’t know what she did (smiles). She does anything in secret and no one ever knows anything.
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: I worked a lot on the non-verbal. My character doesn’t express himself much with words. The posture, the looks… I tried to use other tools to convey things. There is a part of Khedidja that died when she tragically lost her husband. Then she tried to cope because she had two children to protect. Khedidja had imagined that they wanted to take her children away from her, that her in-laws were all-powerful, especially since they were never really accepted.
Catherine Corsini, thanks to whom we discovered you in “La Fracture”, has once again called on you. How did she tell you about this new collaboration?
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: Our meeting clearly changed my life. There is a very beautiful bond that has developed, mutual respect, there is a certain chemistry between the two of us… It was here in Cannes that she told me about it. We were at a lunch with Thierry Frémaux [délégué général du Festival de Cannes], exactly a year ago. I was invited as part of the César [la comédienne a remporté en 2022 le César de la meilleure actrice dans un second rôle pour La Fracture de Catherine Corsini] and Catherine chaired the jury of the Queer Palm [prix décerné aux films sélectionnés au Festival de Cannes traitant de la thématique LGBTQ+] She had already told me a bit about her project and she told me here that she had selected me for the film.
You know the controversy surrounding the film. Esther Gohorou, you expressed yourself on the subject, via a press release, because it concerns you in part. Sex and minors is always a delicate association. You were confronted with a similar controversy, in the United States, with your first film, “Mignonnes” by Maïmouna Doucouré, which denounces the hypersexualization of young girls. With the expertise that is somewhat yours now, how should this issue be handled so that everyone is more comfortable?
Esther Gohourou : For cute, the argument was stupid. What’s more, it was the Americans who were complaining, although I’ve seen things about it at home. On The returnfor the famous scene which caused controversy [une scène à caractère sexuel impliquant la comédienne, alors mineure, et un acteur majeur], we were offered intimacy coaches and we said no because we were comfortable with each other. We talked about this scene and there was the necessary framing. I will not give advice because it has been applied.
The controversy also concerns the behavior of Catherine Corsini on the set, which has been criticized. Did everything go well with her?
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: If I started an adventure with Catherine again, it’s because it went very well. I’m not at all disturbed by that.
You both have similar paths: the cinema is quite recent in your life. Have you decided what you are going to do about your acting career? Will you remain a caregiver, Aissatou Sagna Diallo?
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: Man proposes, God disposes. I never dreamed of being an actress. God put it in my way. I look forward to seeing the rest of his program. But I’m starting to take a clear liking to it and I would actually like it to continue. As long as I can do both, I will. Caregiver and actress, it’s a very good balance. And even if I stop being a nurse’s aide in the hospital, what I like the most is taking care and you can do it in many ways and in all areas. So I will always have that balance.
In “The Fracture”, it is obvious because you play a nurse there. But does your job as a caregiver help you when you play?
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: Perhaps in relation to the body. I am a little less so now, but I am very modest. Respect for others, respecting everyone’s private sphere: these are values shared by the two professions. There is a very good complementarity between the two professions.
And you Esther Gohourou, do high school and comedy balance each other out too? Do you want to continue this acting career that you started with “Mignonnes”?
Esther Gohourou: I always wanted to be an actress. When I was little, when I watched cartoons, I wanted to be an actress, walk on the red carpet and that’s it… (big smile). When you grow up and tour, you realize it’s not that easy. When your dream comes true, you say “wow, did I manage to do that?”. Especially since growing up, I said to myself that it was not possible in relation to the place where I live – 93, La Courneuve which I totally represent (smile) –, my skin color.. When you watch TV, French films, the leading roles are not necessarily attributed to young black girls…
As a result, you are pioneers because thanks to you, there is more representation of diversity on French screens...
Esther Gohourou : It was not the case when I was younger but today, we see that it changes. For my part, even if I really want to be an actress, I don’t go looking for castings because I risk putting myself in the way of continuing my education. But if I am offered roles, I say yes right away. After the baccalaureate, I will be able to go and look for castings. In any case, for now, the first job I want to pursue is an actress.
What do you want viewers to keep from your film, which talks about family and ties that are being diluted?
Aissatou Sagna Diallo: There is obviously this intra-family bond. Above all, it’s a family and it’s also three women who are highlighted in the film. The return depicts fighting between teenage girls and women.
Esther Gohourou: That unity is their strength.