In June 2008, 17 teenagers in a small town in Massachusetts, USA decided to become pregnant at the same time. Back then, the media claimed that films like Juno (2007) and Knocked Up (2007) were responsible for this inexplicable collective behaviour. Little did they know that their story was going to inspire French director duo Delphine and Muriel Coulin’s next film — 17 Filles (original title) or 17 Girls.
“We wanted to keep in mind that this is an incredible story. It could be called 17 Princesses,” says Delphine, who along with sister Muriel, directed this film with an entire cast of young untrained actors, barring three. “We worked hard to get them to get comfortable with each other, because they had to look like friends on screen. We trained with them before shooting, which is rare in France, because it’s expensive.”
A young Camille (Louise Grinberg) realises she’s pregnant during a medical test in school. With child-like excitement, she’s convinced this is ‘cool’ and will change ‘things’. Soon, in an act of solidarity, her friends too become pregnant, as do 12 other schoolmates.
Explaining the portrayal of the lives of the pregnant minors in the film, where they’re seen smoking pot, cigarettes, chugging beer, driving rash and playing with a football literally on fire, Delphine adds, “They are 16-year-olds. They will do what 16-year-olds do, without realising.” However, in the real life story, Muriel reveals that things were a lot different: “Some of the children did not come out okay, but we didn’t want to go there.”
Muriel, who in the past has assisted legendary Polish filmmaker, Krzysztof Kieslowski on 3 Colours, insists she’s “the technique” behind the film, while sister Delphine, being a novelist and writer, is “the fiction”. 17 Filles, which was screened at the Cannes Critics’ Week at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, saw a packed show at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival on Monday.