Film Review: Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages (All Your Faces)

Film Review: Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages (All Your Faces)
Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages is an ambitious, rather earnest film about so-called restorative justice, directed by Jeanne Herry. The title literally means “I will always see your faces.” It left me scratching my head: Who’s “I”? Whose faces? See in what way? First off, there’s no real “I” in the film — the interesting thing about it is that it has a collective focus, a group of volunteers responsible for putting into place and moderating restorative justice sessions. Restorative justice first became known in post-conflict African countries such as Rwanda. The idea was that, instead of punitive justice, which often sets off repeating cycles of revenge, to implement a process in which war criminals and civilian victims confront one another. Ideally the criminals re-integrate society while victims have their agency and dignity restored to them. This concept has been transposed to France, and the film depicts two case studies. Director Jeanne Herry. © Trésor Films One session takes place in a prison. Three prisoners (all male) face an equal number of robbery victims (two women and a man), while a volunteer moderates. A nice touch is to place a prop, a wooden baton, between the participants. Whenever someone wants to speak, he or she takes up the baton. Each side speaks about how the crimes impacted them, asks questions, explains how they’ve lived with the aftermath, and sometimes lashes out (in the case of the victims). Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages. © Trésor Films It’s fascinating to watch and we get some illuminating insights — for example, although the victims understandably consider themselves the be-all-end-all of the incidents, the criminals only had an eye for their booty, with no desire to harm anyone. And while the victims are afraid of encountering the criminals again, the criminals are even more afraid of being spotted, and would hide their faces if they thought they were crossing an erstwhile victim on the street. Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages. © Trésor Films Despite all this, the sessions don’t quite seem like restorative justice, as the two sides weren’t directly involved with each other: these criminals didn’t victimize these victims. In the African examples, even when the participants weren’t individually linked, there was real specificity: the war criminals were members of specific groups implicated in crimes, the victims resided in specific villages that had been targeted. The situation in the film is more generic, and so seems more like an encounter group session. Which is still valid, but the pattern is what we might expect: people letting off steam, emotional breakdowns, characters bonding, feel-good reconciliation.

Lead photo credit : Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages poster © Trésor Films

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.