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Les Arcs Special Screenings: Interview with Manon Stutz and Margaux Fazio, directors of "Tears Come from Above"

By Emilie Mahé

Mesmerized with the beauty of the mountains covered in snow, it's in the magical winter setting of Les Arcs Film Festival that I met up with Swiss directors Manon Stutz and Margaux Fazio, aged 28 and 27, respectively, to discuss their film Tears Come from Above, screened at the French gathering. After a couple of individual projects, the unassuming pair began working together at the Ecole de Cinéma de Lausanne, collaborating on one-minute films. After a first, unsuccessful participation at the Nikon Film Festival, they tried again the following year and won the Jury Prize.

The Nikon Film Festival welcomes over two thousand short films each year, and they have to comply with two rules: a set theme and running time of between 120 and 140 seconds. In 2023, with the French actor Alexandre Astier serving as jury president, the competition’s theme was “Number 13”.

The young filmmakers rose to the challenge, taking up the theme with a specific topic they felt was important to convey. Tears Come from Above portrays a homosexual Auschwitz deportee whose arm is marked with the number 13013, and who, 60 years later, frees himself from the burden of guilt he carried following the loss of his loved one in the camps. 

"Basically, as the theme was 'Number 13', we first had the idea of tattooed Auschwitz deportees. We started from that, and then we thought we'd like to address more specifically the homosexual deportees because they are rarely talked about. We really wanted to focus on them," explains Stutz. 

"It's a theme that we noticed around us a bit and I think subconsciously it took root. [...] We'd been on several trips together, including one to San Francisco, which hosts the huge Pink Triangle Memorial in the gay district. That's where it all started,” adds Fazio.

They realized that they themselves had gaps in their knowledge of learned history, and that there was a lot still hidden or unspoken. "I would have liked to have learned more of that [information about homosexual deportees]. Even at school, it is mentioned merely as a footnote of the Holocaust history,” Stutz reflects. 

For them, the driving force behind this short film was not winning a prize, but raising awareness about the topic in wider society. "Many people don't even know there were homosexuals in the camps," says Stutz. 

With this in mind, a great deal of work went into the pre-production. "It's a delicate subject to talk about […] so there were a lot of things to put in place, the costumes, the set design, and, for the script, we had a lot of research to do to get as close as possible to the truth,“ they say.

During the Q&A session after a screening, they were asked if they felt they were the right people to tell a story on this subject. Stutz explains: "At the time, we were a little unsettled because we didn't really know what to say. But afterwards, we realized that many artists tell stories they haven't experienced. So in any case, I don't think it's a question of legitimacy, I think it's about information and knowing how to tackle the subject in the right way and try to do something that's fair.”

Stutz and Fazio’s greatest pride lies in the feedback they've received from the public and the fact that they've managed to move people, making their contribution preserving and passing on a history that must not be forgotten or side-lined.

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