Behind the scenes of the documentary Our Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keepers, which will be shown at the Grand Rex in Paris on December 9 after several national broadcasts, reveals the incredible journey of a team taken to Poland in the summer of 2022 by 21-year-old UTC student Felix Brossard. Immersion at the heart of the only project to have been authorised to collect testimonies from Ukrainian refugees and volunteers in the Przemyśl camp in Poland, around ten kilometres from the Ukrainian border.
Félix Brossard, a student in his 3rd semester of computer engineering (GI3), lives and breathes cinema and images. Founder of the Studio N Association, one of the largest voluntary associations in France with almost 400 members, and a founding member of the Studio N company and the “Fédération française du cinéma associative”, the Deux-Sévrien is a committed enthusiast.
He’s a workaholic and a hyperactive person who doesn’t like to be bored: «There’s too much to do for that! His aspiration: «To give meaning to my life and use what I know how to do to help others”. A week after Russia declared war on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Félix and a group from Studio N decided to get involved. “It’s the first time we’ve experienced a conflict on our continent,» says Félix. We imagine that young people our age are fighting for their country. We’re not good at humanitarian work, but we are good at images. We agreed to make a documentary in the Przemyśl camp in Poland where thousands of Ukrainians had taken refuge. We weren’t looking for shock images, but personal testimonies to get the message across to Europe. The city gave us permission to film. It’s unprecedented and a crazy exclusive». The accounts gathered in Przemyśl in Poland, the first town located around ten kilometres from the Ukrainian border, illustrate the commitment and boldness of the young team. The documentary Our Brothers’ and Sisters «brings us back down to earth and helps us understand the key issues,» says Félix. We have messages to spread so that people understand what happened over there. Screened at the CGR Niort multiplex on November 10, the Poitiers-Castille multiplex on November 17, the Angoulême multiplex on November 24 and the Bordeaux-Le Français multiplex on December 1, thanks to CC GE37 students from UTC who are organising these previews, the documentary will also be shown at the Grand Rex in Paris on December 9. According to the UTC student: «Being supported by the cinema sector is no mean feat”.
Locations for novel shoots
At the end of June 2022, after a day and a half’s journey, the team disembarked at Przemyśl, in a transit camp that was merely a stage on the way to another host country, such as Germany, France and «above all Poland, which has a similar culture and gives refugees the opportunity to return home fairly quickly». Here, everything is run by associations, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and volunteers like Hessel, a former Dutch banker who left everything behind to help people in absolute need. «He is doing something that is essential for him. It’s reset his values to zero. It’s a real slap in the face. After seven days on the ground, and fourteen recorded testimonies from volunteers and refugees, the documentary Our Brothers and Sisters delivers 42 minutes of stories «sometimes terrible and understood after the fact when editing. And that was not easy to handle…»
In early 2023, moved by the documentary, the former Dutch banker contacted the team again to follow him to Ukraine in humanitarian groups. «We were accredited by the head of the Ukrainian army to film and show the situation on the ground. It was concrete. There was no turning back. From a humanitarian and professional point of view, this was an opportunity not to be missed, even though we’re no longer in Poland but in Ukraine, with all the risks that entails», stresses the enthusiast. Last July, in Fastiv, Irpin, Uman and Kiev, the team, deeply affected by the consequences of the war and what they saw there, filmed the second episode of a much wider, global project. The thirty or so interviews and 50 hours of footage shot are currently being translated into a new documentary.
Studies with an entrepreneurial spirit
« UTC leaves a lot of room for projects outside study time and encourages a great deal of autonomy and investment. It’s undoubtedly thanks to this formula that I was able to get involved in this project», admits Félix. To set up large-scale projects like this one, Robin, a friend and member of the BDE (student’s union) to which the young documentary filmmaker also belongs, points out that «you need the mental strength to get involved. A lot of students have an entrepreneurial spirit, but the hardest part is putting it into practice. He’s going to do it. That’s always impressed me about Félix. He never makes excuses. He works all the time because he knows how to put his social and student life on hold. I was immediately impressed by his approach. We had a lot of questions about going out into the open to take pictures. But it was a carefully thought-out project with a whole approach. In Poland, it was safe and reassuring. In Ukraine, there was the possibility that he wouldn’t come back…». Today, the young UTC undergrad hopes to leave again, but with his engineering diploma in his pocket and to complete the many projects in progress with the Studio N Association: the forthcoming release of a short pirate-based film shot in 2022 on the island of Oléron and the organisation of the National Festival of Associative Cinema this summer.