Noémie says yes | A look into the hell of child prostitution

Director Geneviève Albert hopes for her feature film debut, Noemie says yes “Can touch and shake people, but also open up a new dialogue about youth prostitution”. Screening the opening of Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, which hits theaters on April 29, the film takes a look at the hell the character, played by young Kelly Depeault, goes through when she agrees to become an escort .

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Marissa Groghe

Marissa Groghe
The press

“It’s a great opportunity to open the rendez-vous with my first feature film, it’s very moving,” says director Geneviève Albert, who we met at the Cinémathèque Québécoise the day before the presentation. “It’s a brave decision to choose my opening film, it’s not an easy film. »

Noemie says yes is likely to evoke a whole range of emotions in those who see it, from outrage and sadness to deep disgust and compassion. “It makes me happy when people say the movie made them cry,” says Geneviève Albert. For me, the natural reaction is to cry. I have high hopes that people won’t come out of this film feeling indifferent. »

Noémie est une adolescente de 15 ans qui vit depuis deux ans en centre jeunesse. Quand il devient évident qu’elle ne pourra pas rentrer chez sa mère, elle décide de s’enfuir. Dans le monde qui l’accueille, l’enfer l’attend. Elle est manipulée et accepte de devenir escorte pendant le Grand Prix de Montréal. Le long métrage raconte les journées de violence, de solitude, d’angoisse et de détresse après que Noémie eut dit oui à la prostitution.

Collé à la réalité

Geneviève Albert et Kelly Depeault ont cette même perception du film : il s’agit d’une dénonciation. « C’est tellement plus proche de nous qu’on le pense et je suis contente d’avoir fait un film qui met la réalité dans ta face, qui va permettre aux gens d’avoir accès à ce message-là », dit Kelly Depeault, révélation de l’année au dernier Gala Québec Cinéma pour son rôle dans La déesse des mouches à feu.


La réalisatrice Geneviève Albert

« Je suis sensible à la prostitution depuis mon adolescence, dit quant à elle Geneviève Albert. À partir du moment où j’ai pris connaissance de cette réalité, de cette transaction où on achète le corps de quelqu’un pour en disposer sexuellement à sa guise… Je ne comprenais pas à l’époque et je ne comprends toujours pas. »

C’est un sujet qui est tellement fort, qui m’habite tellement, que ça s’est imposé comme thématique de mon premier long métrage de fiction.

Geneviève Albert, réalisatrice

Mais pour traiter d’un tel sujet de la bonne façon, « pour que des femmes qui ont vécu ça le regardent et se disent que ça ressemble à leur réalité », il fallait d’abord faire ses devoirs. « J’ai fait énormément de recherches, parce que ce n’est pas mon vécu, indique la réalisatrice. Pour moi, c’était une façon d’honorer et de respecter les femmes et les personnes qui sont passées par la prostitution. » Elle a rencontré des femmes qui étaient adolescentes lorsqu’elles sont passées par là, mais a aussi parlé à un proxénète de 17 ans « qui [l’a] very inspired to write the character of Zach [le proxénète de Noémie] “.

First no, then yes

Geneviève Albert offered the role to Kelly Depeault after seeing it The goddess of fireflies, by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. Her interpretation of the character of Catherine was “a revelation” for the director of Noemie says yes. “She was the best actress for the role, mostly because she’s extremely fair. Then because she has something that isn’t even talent, which is a very, very strong screen presence. She really has spectacular power. We all have natural talents and Kelly has an energy where there is openness but also error. You can’t make that up. You have it or you don’t have it. »


Actress Kelly Depeault

So it was her. From the beginning. But Kelly initially turned down the role. “I read the scenario and found it really difficult because it didn’t explain how it would play out,” explains the actress. But we had a coffee and she explained it to me. »

The girls aren’t sexualized, there are no unnecessary scenes, it’s about my body image on the big screen and the attention is on the men, on the clients.

Kelly Depeault, actress

She finally accepted. She then threw herself into this role, which was so complex and tough, last summer. “I find that as women we all have these fears [d’agression] in the brain, in the body, all the time. So it’s a pretty accessible path for the imagination,” she continues. This allowed her to step into the shoes of this teenager who has suffered unspeakable violence.

“I knew I wasn’t really going to live it. And I was also aware that there were girls who really lived it while I was filming, adds Kelly Depeault. It was important to me to play this role respectfully. »

Distance yourself from yourself

“Customers are the big invisibles in prostitution, but without customers there is no prostitution,” says Geneviève Albert. I decided that I would make them visible in my film. We see their actions. »

The way to make this feature film was clear in the director’s mind. Geneviève Albert explains that clichés, sensationalism, nudity or baseless violence on screen are out of the question. For example: In none of the many sexual scenes between a customer and Noémie do we see the two people in the same shot.

It would imply a relationship between two people, but for me it’s not. It is an act of domination, a balance of power. So I separated them.

Genevieve Albert, director

That process is also one of the things that put Kelly at ease about the idea of ​​embarking on this film, she tells us. While her body became the main tool of a performance in which she had to pretend that it was being abused, the actress “distancing” from herself in certain scenes. How to protect yourself.

But the filming left its mark on the psyche of the actress. She speaks at length in a capsule designed by director Kitana Zéphir and filmed by Productions.This role has made her lose touch with her nudity, made her afraid of sex and of being touched by others. It was difficult for Kelly to get Noémie out of her body and her mind. When asked if she was comfortable talking about it, the soon-to-be-20-year-old actress slowly declines. “The capsule ended all of that for me. It was good to talk about it at length, but it’s a chapter I’ve closed. »

On the eve of the film’s release, Kelly Depeault says she’s glad “to know that women who are really living this can have a film that shows what’s happening.” “I can’t wait for the film to move society a little bit,” she says. Because that’s what it’s all about Noemie says yes.

Noemie says yes hits theaters on Friday April 29th.

Accompanied by members of the film crew, Les Rendez-Vous Québec Cinéma will tour five regions of Québec to introduce it to the public. They will be in Gatineau on April 25th, Quebec City on April 26th, Sherbrooke on April 27th and Trois-Rivières on April 28th.

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