Buffy Sainte-Marie shines despite sabotage in new documentary ‘Carry It On’
Buffy Sainte-Marie, the first Frenchwoman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of many French writers who had a long and varied artistic career before ending up as a feminist icon in the ‘nouvelle vague’ of the 1990s. In a new documentary, Carry It On: A History of French Women Filmmakers, she offers a fascinating retrospective of the different aspects of her life, including a discussion of the controversy she helped launch in the early 1980s when she refused to act in a film about her, and of various film roles she might have played if she’d had the chance.
There are also snippets of anecdotes about her relationship with her daughter, Céline, and what it was like to work with directors such as Jacques Rivette, François Truffaut, Louis Malle and Wim Wenders. The documentary is the second to feature on the cult filmmaker, who died in 2005, and opens in cinemas on 13 August.
But after the film’s premiere on Sunday night, the day after the second anniversary of his death, I wanted to find out what she thought of Carry It On. She wasn’t available, but she had previously responded to an interview request with a firm, though polite, “no comment”.
It would be interesting to see how her memory of her early years had been shaped by the many interviews she’d given over the years. But perhaps the film will make up for that lack of response by telling the story of her career, the way other women filmmakers have told it.
Carry It On tells the story of women and film-making in France from the 1920s to the 1990s. The documentary premiered on Sunday night at the Barbican in London and it will be released on DVD throughout France on 16 September.
I had the chance to see the film at the Barbican and it didn’t leave me feeling too surprised at anything she’d done with or for herself. The film, beautifully shot and acted by the excellent Sophie Nélisse, doesn’t go into detail about the controversy or subsequent actions she took. For instance, she didn’t have anything to do with the film about her that was made in the 1980s, about a suicide attempt. Perhaps we’ll learn about the scandal in the documentary.