Oscars 2021: in a documentary, a retiree from Caen in the footsteps of her brother who died in deportation

On April 25, 2021 will be held in Los Angeles, the 93rd edition of the Oscars. It will also be the 93rd birthday of Colette Marin-Catherine, a Caennaise at the heart of a documentary named for the prestigious ceremony, in the category of best documentary short. The 25-minute film follows the 92-year-old woman in the footsteps of her brother, who died in deportation to the Dora camp in central Germany.

“I am extremely happy that Jean-Pierre comes out of anonymity,” says Colette, who receives in her apartment in the Pierre-Heuzé district in Caen. She remembers the disappearance of this “tall handsome 17-year-old guy with an exceptional IQ”. On June 16, 1943, Jean-Pierre did not return home. “It was abnormal. We spent ten nightmare days looking for him everywhere. ” Accident ? Disappearance ? “We resigned ourselves to approaching the German gendarmerie. “

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Violently repressed by the Gestapo, Colette and her mother still had to wait several days before learning of the fate of the young man. Jean-Pierre had been arrested and taken to prison. “He had been denounced, specifies Colette. His whole group was arrested. It was a network. They were collecting weapons. Jean-Pierre left with a resistance file. First interned in a prison in the city, the prisoner was transported to several places, to the sinister concentration camp of Dora, in central Germany.

The Oscar-nominated documentary brought Colette Marin-Catherine to the scene. A project born a little by chance, in April 2018. Christophe Gosselin, a tour guide in the region, had breathed the name and the story of the old lady to a producer, Alice Doyard. She contacted the American director Anthony Giacchino. The adventure of “Colette” – the title of the film – was launched. With an unexpected passenger: Lucie Fouble, a northern student who had worked on… Jean-Pierre. “She did a thesis on her career, enthuses Colette. We took our lovely and adorable Lucie to Germany. “

“Thanks to this film, Jean-Pierre comes out of his grave”

Dora was fatal to Jean-Pierre, “died of exhaustion” after having worked, like thousands of other prisoners, in the underground passages of the camp. While he died in March 1945, his family was not notified until the end of the war. “My mother never ceased to nurture the hope of seeing him return,” adds Colette. It was the first time the retiree had visited Dora. “This trip took me back to 1943. It was stressful. Before leaving, I had said that I would not be the same when crossing the German border. I thought I would be myself again when I came back, but no. There were difficult times. For Lucie as for me. “

The documentary will therefore compete for the Oscars. “I’ll be very happy for the film crew if they win,” says Colette, who for her refutes the term “heroine”, despite her role in the short film and her own acts of resistance. The essential is elsewhere for her. “Jean-Pierre comes out of the grave thanks to this film. I wasn’t particularly close to him but I admired him. Over the years, his disappearance had diluted in grief. With this trip, I reopened a page from the old album. “The April 25 ceremony will not change her life:” It’s my birthday. I’ll have a more whimsical dessert, but I’ll do as usual! »Under the eye of his brother Jean-Pierre, including a portrait, carried out clandestinely in the prison of the Maladrerie in August 1943, throne in the office of Colette, 93 years old on the night of the Oscars.

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Oscars 2021: in a documentary, a retiree from Caen in the footsteps of her brother who died in deportation

Hank Gilbert