Q&A: writer/director Marianne Farley on Oscar-nomimated MARGUERITE

By Josh MUCHLY

This short film centers on the friendship between an aging woman, Marguerite (played by Béatrice Picard) and her nurse, Rachel (Sandrine Bisson); their interactions allow Marguerite to rediscover long-buried feelings and make peace with her past. The film was nominated for an Academy Award, and writer/director Marianne Farley was gracious enough to set aside some time during the pre-ceremony week to discuss it.

Informer Media Group: I am quite moved by Marguerite.

Marianne Farley: THANK YOU!!! That means a lot to me.

Informer Media Group: This is your writing debut, correct? What inspired this story?

Marianne Farley: Yes, this is the first thing that I’ve written that has been brought to the screen. Human connection is the spark that always ignites my creativity. The idea that two people can inspire each other and make a difference in each other’s lives moves me deeply.

The story of Marguerite came to me when I realized how fortunate I was to have been born at a time (and in a country) that allows me to be who I am and love who I want. I have never had any taboos about sexuality because I wasn’t raised that way. But for women of my grandmother’s generation, it wasn’t so. They had to marry and have children. Most of them didn’t work and their primary focus was to make their husband happy. It was never about the women’s needs, dreams or aspirations.

When it comes to love, desire and sexuality, society had very rigid rules back then. And unfortunately in many countries that is still the case. In my film, the character of Rachel (the nurse) is able to express herself in a way that shocks Marguerite at first but in the end, it opens her up to a much more inclusive view of the world. That moment of vulnerability is what I wanted to bring to the screen. 

Informer Media Group: Why is Marguerite important for today’s audience?

Marianne Farley: I think that this story is important to tell today for many reasons but the initial urge I felt was greatly due to my fear that LGBTQ rights are in jeopardy at this time. Although things have come a long way for the LGBTQ community there is still a lot of work to be done. In some parts of the world, the progress is meek, nonexistent or even regressing. Although we talk more openly about homosexuality and gender identity, the laws are slow to change and there is always the potential of regressive laws hampering our evolution to a truly free and fair society. That is why we absolutely need to keep standing up for basic human rights for all!

Informer Media Group: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s fair to say this a straight-forward story: no twists; no shocks. How did you know a story like this and told this way would resonate with people?

Marianne Farley: Actually, I didn’t know it would resonate with people. You can never really know for sure. I wanted to tell this story because it was a story that moved me deeply. And I think that we put too much value on form and not enough on content these days, and this was my way of challenging that idea. You don’t need violence or explosions to captivate an audience. I strongly believe that human beings are drawn to stories that are genuine and profoundly humane. I suppose that Marguerite resonates with people because it is a story of compassion, which we need more of these days.

Informer Media Group: In what way is a nurse the perfect figure to bridge the generational gap between these characters?

Marianne Farley: I think a nurse is a perfect figure to bridge the generational gap because by definition the relationship she has with her patients is very intimate. Through this story, I wanted to explore human vulnerability. Marguerite’s vulnerability stems from the fact that she is an elderly diabetic woman but also from the heavy burden of her loneliness and her secret unavowed past. Rachel and Marguerite’s relationship evolves and transcends the normal patient/nurse relationship. Through her friendship with Rachel, a much younger and more liberated woman, Marguerite is able to get a glimpse of the life she could have had. Rachel’s vulnerability is also something that flourishes throughout the film. Only when she sees Marguerite open up to her does she allow herself to be emotionally shaken by the older woman. In my mind through this encounter, both of their lives are forever transformed.

Informer Media Group: Marguerite is not just an elderly character, she also has some health problems; how does that change the dynamic of the situation both for her as a character as well as the audience.

Marianne Farley: Marguerite’s health problems definitely make her more vulnerable and less inclined to want to keep her secrets buried. In fact, because her health is declining rapidly, it pushes her to want to unburden herself. I think for the audience it is moving precisely because they know that Marguerite doesn’t have much time left to live. 

Informer Media Group: Generally speaking, you’ve done more acting than writing, directing, producing. What has inspired you to move behind the camera, so to speak?

Marianne Farley: I am a storyteller and that can take on many forms. I became an actress because I wanted to move people but after working my craft for over 20 years, I needed a new challenge. Directing was the natural next step for me precisely because of my experience as an actress.

Informer Media Group: On that subject, what is it like being nominated for an Academy Award??

Marianne Farley: Being nominated feels so surreal still! It is a great honor to be a part of such a talented group of artists. Although it’s something I have always dreamt about, now that it has happened I also realize how much work it involves. A full-time job really! But I feel incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity.

Informer Media Group: What’s tentatively next for you?

Marianne Farley: I have a feature film in development (NORTH OF ALBANY, co-written by Claude Brie and co-produced by Benoit Beaulieu) and another short film in the works (SEIZE, produced by Charlotte Beaudoin-Poisson and Sophie Ricard-Harvey). Hopefully, both will be shot this year. I also co-produced a feature film (LES NÔTRES, directed by Jeanne Leblanc and co-produced by Benoit Beaulieu) that will be coming out this year. I play one of the lead roles alongside Émilie Bierre, Judith Baribeau and Paul Doucet.

Informer Media Group: Where can people go to learn more about and support you and your projects?

Marianne Farley: They can follow me on social media or on my website. Instagram: @farleymarianne, Twitter: @Marianne1Farley, Facebook: @MarianneFarley. I try to keep people in the loop as much as possible. They can also follow MARGUERITE’s social media. Instagram: @margueriteshortfilm, Twitter: Marguerite_Film, Facebook: @margueriteshortfilm.

 

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