Il vous faudra bien passer près des sirènes

(You will have to pass the Sirens)

This film was made during a recent  Clea residency, (Contrat Local d’Education Artistique) in Lens-Liévin, in the heart of the Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin

The Louvre-Lens wanted to initiate a workshop with asylum seekers currently housed in Liévin, and they wanted this workshop to connect with their Homer exhibition which is up until autumn. At the same time, the cultural centre of Avion was interested in creating a project which would explore different generations of people who have immigrated to the region – whether recently or years ago. The mining industry, for example,  recruited people from Italy, Poland, Algeria or Morocco at various periods.

I decided to link the two structures in a voice/vidéo project, and to take as our starting point the episode of the Sirens in book XII of the Odyssey.

In the Odyssey (book XII), Circe says to Ulysses: “You will have to pass the Sirens first. They charm all mortals who come near to them… but lost is he who listens to their song. Pass by without stopping…”  The Sirens’ song is beautiful, haunting, deadly … and in a language no-one understands. The idea of using voices and languages, the link with travelling – or passing by – seemed to resonate with the participants.

I asked the 11 participants to each choose a song, a story or a poem in their mother tongue. I then recorded them speaking or singing,  and together we tried to imagine what images could accompany their voice. Certains themes emerged through their diversity : home and lack of home, childhood memories, anger, hope…

A film by Kate France

partners:  the Louvre-Lens, the CADA (Centre d’Accueil des Demandeurs d’Asile) and the CAO (Centre d’Accueil et d’Orientation) and the Jean Ferrat Cultural Centre, Avion.

with : Fatima Aatar, Nada Abbas, Raad Abbas, Dany Blin, Zineb Bouziane, Junior, Jacques Lempicki, Babylas Malonga, Mimi, Giovanni et Antionette Palmieri, Nshteyman Suleman

Music : Gavin Bryars, Bana C4, Eric Sterenfeld and traditional songs
Texts : Nizar Qabbani, Warsan Shire, Marisha Data, and the participants

Thankyou to Loraine Vilain for the engraving workshop, Matthieu Morseau and Giordano Melilli for organising, Joelle Dagher and Magdalena Matthieu for helping with translations.


May 25 2019 at the auditorium of the Louvre-Lens, as part of the Amnesty International weekend “Migrations”

June 20 2019, cinéma le Familia, Avion

link to film