Interview with Rose Bush, a University of Texas alumnus
When you watch the Oscars and they land on the best category of documentary shorts, you’ll have a local player to look for.
Rose Bush is the cinematographer for “Colette,” nominated alongside four other 93rd Oscar shorts. To rejoice, know that Bush is a Texas Longhorn. She spent nine years in Austin while working on a Masters in Film Production at the University of Texas, graduating in 2012. Her postgraduate thesis film, “Vultures of Tibet,” won the Thesis Prize. exceptional mastery.
“My experience at UT was the basis of my approach,” says Bush, adding that the school encourages filmmakers to “find their own voice and form in the medium”.
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Bush is based in New York and Los Angeles, but grew up everywhere – in Alaska, New Mexico, among the redwoods of California and the Rockies of Colorado. At UT, she found a global student body, and her studies were equally broad: “Being in Austin really opened up my world, that the world of cinema is so diverse.”
And “Colette” also crosses borders. Directed by Anthony Giacchino, the 25-minute film follows Colette Marin-Catherine, now 92, who was a member of the French Resistance in her youth during World War II. In 1943, the Gestapo arrested his brother, Jean-Pierre, another freedom fighter. The family never saw him again; he was killed by the Nazis in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Colette has sworn never to set foot in Germany. In the present, a young woman named Lucie Fouble, a war specialist, encourages Colette to face the past in order to move forward. Together, they go to the place where Jean-Pierre was killed.
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Bush got involved with “Colette” when filmmaker Aaron Matthews – with whom she collaborated on “Tim O’Brien’s War and Peace,” a film about the Central Texas author – introduced him to Giacchino. He was working on a series of projects about the war and the people who participated in it. In the spring of 2018, Bush and Giacchino made a reconnaissance trip to Europe, where they saw Nazi weapons testing facilities, battlefields, U-boat enclosures, and conflict-affected communities.
On the beach in Normandy, someone told the filmmakers that there was one person to meet, a member of the French Resistance and still alive, and that they would do the introduction.
This person was Colette.
Bush and Giacchino interviewed her, heard her story, and realized how brave and charismatic she was. “We were all taking notes on how to live, quite frankly, from her,” Bush says.
It was clear to the filmmakers that more had to be done with Colette’s story. Producer Alice Doyard has spent months building a relationship and trust with Colette.
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“One of the things that really inspired and interesting us is that a lot of the history of WWII is told through the perspective of men in military uniform holding guns,” Bush says. . “Not much is told from a women’s perspective.”
The film was made by an international team of Europeans and Americans, by design. The team drew on countries involved in the war. They used a German camera with a French and American made gimbal, a stabilization unit. It was not an aesthetic choice, says Bush. It was an intentional act of healing.
Bush says Colette carries her courage with her to this day, but also significant trauma.
“In order to survive what happened during the war to herself and her family, Colette had to forget the past in order to move forward,” Bush says. “The film ‘Colette’ is the confluence of these two means of survival: forgetting and remembering.
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As the director of photography, Bush sought to capture these two sides visually. In Lucie, she had an avatar of optimism and an avatar of weight and burden in Colette. Bush wanted ethereal sensibility. Much of the footage she has shot is carried by hand and in the style of the cinema verite.
Documentary film making relies on accessing vulnerable moments, especially in this story. It was a very sensitive experience, says Bush. The crew listened to their topic. “What was meaningful and healthy for her guided what was meaningful for the film,” Bush says. If Colette said that filmmakers had to stop, they would stop. terminates the procedure.)
But the filmmaking process also allowed the subjects to deal with the enormity of what to expect.
“When we are at the camp, there is a moment when she remembers that she had brought nothing for Jean-Pierre,” says Bush about a difficult moment for Colette. The camera created a presence, or an opportunity, for Colette and Lucie to kiss and work on their emotions.
“It’s not just the two out there,” Bush says. “It’s the process of the film that accompanies them.”
The crew listened to Colette and paid attention when she needed more room. There was no debate between them to decide not to follow her into the crematorium where Jean-Pierre’s body was burned.
The final shot of the film is indelible. At the time of the credits, Colette is sitting in a cold and industrial room, Lucie by her side. The older woman holds a portrait of her murdered brother. The space is pale and filled with light. This is where Jean-Pierre died, where so many others were worked to death by the Nazis. The two women look at the camera, strong and silent. From inside the frame, Jean-Pierre is still young.
For Bush, this was the shot on which “Colette” had to end. The film is the story of three people, although we only meet the two who are still alive.
“We thought we would restore a kind of dignity to the night and the fog in which Jean-Pierre was placed“ in adolescence ”, she says.
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Colette arrived confident that the room was where the shooting should take place, Bush says. It’s a way of taking ownership of the story, of taking power over what happened there. This gives Jean-Pierre his voice back after being silenced by Hitler’s forces.
Bush’s sense of purpose is strong, bearing in mind the success that “Colette” has now received. He has already received a handful of awards. “It’s so surreal, first of all because there are so many amazing films being considered,” she says of the Oscar. The nomination brings more visibility to the film, and with it, more opportunities to “resist authoritarianism and fascism and promote healing around generational trauma,” Bush says.
“Colette” was a privilege to do while there was still a chance, she said. Throughout the journey, the filmmakers were able to extend the work of people like Jean-Pierre and Colette, decades after the war they fought. Referring to the current conflicts in the world as well as in Myanmar, Bush thinks it is relevant to keep talking about these things.
“The telling of history is also the creation of history,” she says.
You can watch “Colette” at theguardian.com/colette. To learn more about the film, visit colettedoc.com. The 93rd Academy Awards airs at 7 p.m. April 25 on ABC. A 90-minute special featuring the best nominated songs ahead of the ceremony, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Find our Oscar selections in Sunday’s Austin360 section and at austin360.com.