From the Aries family to Coda

The big winner of the Sundance Festival has just arrived on Apple TV +.

The big winner of Sundance 2021 is him! The American remake of The Aries Family have won over prizes and enthusiastic reviews. Back to its genesis with its different protagonists, in front of and behind the camera. Waiting for 2022 Oscar nominations?
By Thierry Cheze

Grand Jury Prize and Audience Prize, Coda achieved the full box at the 2021 edition of Sundance. The name given to hearing children of deaf parents is therefore now also the title of the remake of The Aries Family, decidedly born under good stars. ” Never in 2015, reading this scenario, I would not have imagined this destiny ”, says the happy co-producer of the two versions, Philippe Rousselet. “Obviously, I believed it. It’s not every day that we end up with a story in our hands also singular. But in the cinema there is always a luck factor, including The Aries Family like Coda have benefited.

The Aries Family holds a special place in the career of Philippe Rousselet. It marks his meeting with Éric Jehelmann with whom he partners in his structure Jerico Films (The Promise of Dawn, Small Country …). And it was precisely Jehelmann who had begun to develop the story of this only hearing girl from a deaf family whose fate changed when she discovered that she had a gift for singing. An original idea by Victoria Bedos which gave birth to a screenplay co-written with Stanislas Carré de Malberg, Thomas Bidegain and then Éric Lartigau who directed it. The rest, we know it: more than 7 million entries, I fly by Michel Sardou brought up to date, Louane celebrated by the César for best revelation… But what we do not know is that the film was also very successful internationally – more than 3 million starters – and a lot of remake offers, to which Rousselet puts his veto. “Because very early on, I had only one priority, an American remake, and I was careful that nothing could put him in danger. ” This American tropism is not a fad. In 2008, Rousselet created Vendôme Pictures in the United States and produced Lord of war and Source Coded, with Lionsgate, which he will therefore spontaneously see for the remake rights of The Aries Family. The deal is made quickly and allows Philippe Rousselet to become the co-producer via Vendôme Pictures.

Coda: moving trailer for the American remake of The Aries Family

Change universe

Then begins the search for a screenwriter capable of making this story his own. A dozen candidates jostle at the gate, including Sian Heder, including the first feature, Tallulah, had caught the eye of Lionsgate at Sundance. The latter contacted her and explained to her the challenge that she took up with enthusiasm. “I obviously started by looking The Aries Family. But I never saw him again. I myself I started trying to take the story elsewhere. “ Starting with the place of action, in Massachusetts, where she grew up. “In the United States, the structure of our farms is different from the French. This family therefore had to evolve in another universe. Gold, in my childhood I often went to Gloucester and I was fascinated by the fishing community, resistant to large structures to maintain their independence.

Coda will therefore be in that environment. But that’s not the only change she’s making. “It was impossible for me to write this film without this family is interpreted by the deaf. So why, more than the story of the emancipation of a teenager thanks to singing, Coda first is the portrait of a family and deals much more with disability. By shifting the backbone of the story, I made it my own. ” Rousselet and his friend Patrick Wachsberger (Minesweepers), then co-chairman of Lionsgate, are won over. “Sian presented the best project. We then decided to also entrust him with the realization of Coda. She had the film in mind. And this film made us very desire. ” But soon after, Wachsberger was kicked out of Lionsgate. And his successor decides to make a clean sweep of the past and not to renew the adaptation rights of The Family RAM… while keeping those of the scenario of Coda. A situation that could have become inextricable without the donations of negotiators from the Wachsberger-Rousselet duo, which takes over the project and finds a new partner with Pathé. Sian Heder can therefore build his “film with complete peace of mind. Even though the structure
of the scenario (40% of dialogues in sign language) obliges him to change his working method. “I usually read with friends to hear the dialogue. There, I called on two women who nurtured my culture of the deaf community and acted as my interpreters. It was the first time that, to correct them, I was not going to hear my dialogues but to see them. From the outset, she has only one actress in mind to portray the mother of this tribe: Marlee Matlin, the Oscar-winning actress of Children of silence. “I had never seen her embody a working class woman. I wanted to give him this role of composition. ” When she receives the proposal, Marlee Matlin does not fall in love. ” It was we were talking about this scenario for a little while in the deaf community. But I needed to know Sian’s vision. We talked for three hours and in view of his already extensive knowledge of our community, I understood that we had the same film in head. ” She also slips him the name of the one she would like to see play as her husband: Troy Kotsur, pillar of the Deaf West company, based in LA, with whom she dreams of working. Admirer of this theater company which mixes deaf and non-deaf actors, Sian Heder validates this choice without hesitation.

The rare pearl

On the other hand, she struggles to find the one who will play the couple’s daughter. “The casting process was very long because we were looking for THE rare pearl: a 17-year-old actress with an incredible voice and an ability to carry a film on his shoulders. ” Sian Heder has already seen more than a hundred candidates when the video appears of Emilia Jones, a Welshwoman who, after having started as a child in Pirates Caribbean: The Fountain of Youth, has just made itself known by the Netflix series, Locke and Key. ” His voice was incredibly pure. And I was immediately struck by his naturalness which would allow him to be also at comfortable in singing lessons than on a fishing boat. I had found my heroine. ” Seduced by the script, Emilia Jones is just as much by the amount of challenges to be met. “In my career, I had the chance to meet Pascal Laugier with Ghostland. He had pushed me to do things he knew I could and I didn’t. It carried me through this whole process ” where, for eight months, she took high-dose sign language and singing lessons. All this for a logic of interpretation a thousand leagues from its habits. “In cinema, I always think that the less you do, the better. Corn with sign language, it’s the opposite. She you pushes to express things in a strong way with your face. Discretion is not essential! “ film in all serenity. Even if the structure of the scenario (40% of the dialogues in sign language) obliges him to modify his working method. “I have for used to read with friends to hear the rendering of dialogues. There, I called on two women who nourished my culture of the deaf community and have served as interpreters. It was the first time that, to correct them, I was not going to hear my dialogues but see them. ” From the outset, are especially the filming locations – spotted with the help of Kenneth Lonergan who filmed Manchester by the Sea in the region – which inspired her to the point of becoming characters in her own right. Philippe Rousselet had also immediately perceived their importance in the making of Coda. “Many producers would have it forced to tour in Canada for questions tax credits. But, with Patrick, we privileged his vision of the film. We had hired an author and we preferred increase costs – a budget of $ 15 million – rather than cut its wings. “

Perfect timing

This ” richness “ is also reflected in the choice of songs, another essential element of the film. Coda not being The Aries Family, we all agreed so as not to look for the equivalent of a Sardou ”, Rousselet specifies. With Marius de Vries (soundtrack of La La Land and D’Annette), Sian Heder opts for songs whose lyrics echo the plot, from You’re all I need from the duo Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell at Both sides Now by Joni Mitchell. “Joni wrote this song in his twenties, explains the director. She always said that this title marked the end of his childhood. It is also what happens with the character that Emilia plays ”, who performed all the songs live on the set. Arrived at the assembly, Sian Heder knows that she is playing big in terms of balance. “When we end up with a such a moving material, care must be taken not to not manipulate the viewer. With my editor, we has therefore left a lot of room for humor and made sure that the emotion never arises only from the music. ” The first cut seduces the French producer. “We had the final cut. But, everything remained very “European”, based on exchanges. By choosing Sian, we had a very clear vision of the film she was going to do. The result is in total adequacy. ” A bias rewarded since from its screening at the opening of Sundance, the stakes went up to acquire the film. With Apple TV + as the winner, which will accompany its streaming release with a theatrical exploitation in the United States. With an Oscar campaign in mind? Philippe Rousselet recognizes this: ” To arrive with a feel-good movie talking about disability with such a lightness at the end of the Covid is necessarily the perfect timing. “

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