“Fratè” by Karole Rocher: family filming

In Vezzani, in Haute-Corse, the doors are not locked. Only the shutters remain half-closed, to protect from the crushing sun. Vezzani is perched 800 meters above sea level. On the winding road that climbs there, cows and bulls roam. The air is more bearable than “down”. No noise except birdsong and church bells. “The worries do not rise, rejoices Karole Rocher. We leave them in the plain! And the children are free. They tumble on bicycles and scooters. Among them, Angelina, 8, and Carmen, 4, the daughters of director and actor Thomas Ngijol: “Here, children are kings. Here, above all, Karole calms down. “It is the village of my maternal grandparents. I am Albert Biancardini’s granddaughter, she said in a voice of emotion. I’ve been coming here forever. I feel safe there. After my grandmother died, I was unable to set foot there. Too much suffering, nostalgia. At Vezzani, the filmmaker knows that no one will ever abandon her. At 20, Karole was spotted by costume designer Gigi Lepage. She was then a waitress in a cafe. Since then, we admire her rise: actress, then director of several feature films.

It was unthinkable to work without my daughter. She accompanies me on the sets since her first month

She shows us the Three Graces bar, the village square, the football pitch. And also his mother’s house, and his own, a few meters below. This decor became that of “Fratè”, which she directed with her eldest, Barbara Biancardini, 25, for whom this is the first feature film. “It was unthinkable to work without her, swears Karole. She is first assistant, directs short films and accompanies me on filming since her first month. Twenty-two years separate Karole from her daughter, whom she calls “my baby”. Barbara nicknamed her mother “Mother Teresa” because “she spends her life helping others”. “Between them, it’s fusion, passion,” adds Thomas Ngijol, Karole’s companion. She had warned him: his daughters are his most beautiful love story. “Thanks to them, I learned to love, stopped lying to myself and started to find myself a little pretty,” she analyzes while lighting a cigarillo. They force me to follow a course of action. I can’t mess around. I smoke, I act crazy, I’m a little crazy, but becoming a mother taught me to be honest. Sometimes we argue, but never for long. On her finger, the three-ring Cartier ring in yellow, pink and white gold symbolizing fidelity, love and friendship: “My two oldest daughters have the same one, and I will give it to the last two when they are 20 years old. It’s our thing! she smiles.

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Thomas Ngijol is the only man in this gang of girls. With him, Karole made “Black Snake”. Above all, he is the first one she has brought “to” the village. They have been in love for ten years. “Before him, she says, it was a bit of a mess. Together, they made up a close-knit family. Thomas was able to forge a powerful bond with his elders, Barbara and Gina. “At the beginning of our relationship, they said to me: ‘Mom, even if you leave each other, we will continue to see him. We will do joint custody.” The actor and comedian likes to tease them; they answer him tit for tat, mastering the art of the valve. Thomas is funny, reassuring, generous and modest: “I’m not good at making big, creamy statements. I prefer to live rather than comment. I do not consider them as patches, they are my daughters. It is acquired, he explains. The arrival of their little sisters has further strengthened this base. »

Thomas wrote the screenplay for “Fratè” with Patrick Rocher, Karole’s brother: it is the story of Dumè who, during the funeral of his adoptive father, discovers the existence of a brother, Lucien. To receive the inheritance, both will have to live together for a month. Between power relations, identity crisis and jealousy, the son of blood and the adopted son test each other. “It speaks of our values, of what we pass on… With Karole, we come from the same world. My Cameroonian origins have instilled in me a strong sense of family,” says Thomas. The comedian worked on the script for three years: “We were talking about my roots and his. That’s what gave us the idea for the film, a comedy. With us, we like to laugh! »
The distribution is no exception to the “clan” rule: if Karole and Barbara sat behind the camera, Thomas and Gina, the daughter Karol had with the director Cédric Jimenez, gave each other the line facing the lens. The director was also able to count on Dominique, her mother: “This adventure has brought us closer and united. This feature film repaired me…” Dominique admits to being proud of her daughter: “I love her passion. No half measures! She loves too much, she lives too much, she doesn’t count…” What Thomas Ngijol admires in his wife? “His strength in the face of adversity. Not rage, but something dignified, drawn from his sweetness. She walks with her head held high. »

I mainly work with Thomas. With him, I’m sure I’ll never be disappointed

The production is not that of a blockbuster, far from it. “We didn’t want a big thing! explains Karole. A record shoot in nineteen days, a town hall transformed into a make-up room and the village café into catering. ” I’ve never seen that ! remembers Samir Guesmi, who plays Lucien. I had the impression that Karole was playing her skin. The atmosphere was festive but still professional. Karole tags, clears, wants you to feel comfortable. It’s Wonder Woman: one eye on the combo, the other on the kids. Without forgetting the costumes and the organization…” Barbara knew how to find her place. “I didn’t want to betray the village, the values ​​of simplicity that my mother passed on to me,” she confides. She keeps telling us that money counts less than relationships of the heart. She suffered from the lack of sincerity in this profession. What Karole confirms: “I loved people madly and felt betrayed. I’ve seen friends deny our connection to climb the ladder of fame and get movies. I can’t do that, I don’t want to feel dirty. I pass for the rough girl because I don’t pretend. My problem is that I only work on the affective side. So I only tour with people I like. Lately, I’ve been working mainly with Thomas. With him, I’m sure I’ll never be disappointed. “It is also she who provided all the staging of the show he is currently playing at the Dejazet theater in Paris.

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Of “Fratè”, Karole says that it is her “greatest professional adventure”. “This film belongs to the village, to my children and my grandchildren, who will watch it. The preview could therefore only be held here, in Vezzani. Karole and Barbara have placed chairs facing the church. Spectators settle on their balcony when we realize that Carmen, the youngest, has disappeared. A habit. The Vezzanaises and Vezzanais criss-cross the village. The child reappears with a smile on his face: “Mom, I had just gone on my secret paths! The bar turned off its lights. In the Corsican night, in the last row, Karole watches her “thing” perched on a wooden pallet. Barbara has a surprise in store for her: she sings the final credits, which takes up the Corsican anthem, “Liberta”, which rocked her childhood.

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Now it’s Karole’s turn to disappear. “Sorry, I was crying too much. I went into hiding… When Barbara was born, I was not in the best of moods. I was young, alone, penniless, struggling. I had promised him to do everything to make our life fun. My fight was to never stop making her laugh. We didn’t do too badly! In front of the door of his house, the branches of the cherry tree obstruct the passage. “When I am very old, she declares, I will come to live here. I say “very old” because, before, I made a promise to my daughters. Since they were small, I explain to them that they will be strictly forbidden to take on a nanny when they become mothers. It will be me, full time! My grandchildren are going to have a blast…”