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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

The Midwife

by writer/director Martin Provost

I met my producer, Olivier Delbosc, three years ago at a festival in Prague. He asked me if I had an idea for a movie, as he wanted very much to work with me. After speaking for a while, I told him that I would like to make a film about a midwife. He asked me why and I told him how a midwife saved my life when I was born. I needed a complete blood transfusion, and no one in the hospital could find a match. Later, at the end of the night, the midwife who had assisted at my birth discovered that we shared the same rhesus, and she gave me her blood. Olivier said, “My father was an obstetrician and I spent all my childhood with midwives. They were the ones who took care of me when he delivered babies. They are great women, we never talk about them. I want to make your film.”

I got down to work and wrote the script. I knew nothing about the woman who had saved my life, as the archives of the hospital where I was born were destroyed. So instead, I imagined another story in which I could pay homage to the whole profession. I wrote the script with both Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve in mind, and they immediately said yes. There are films that are born like this—a meeting, a common desire—and are accompanied by destiny.

The most extraordinary thing is that after shooting, when I was doing the credits, I needed a birth certificate, which is rare (usually a simple excerpt of a birth certificate does the job). At the bottom of the certificate, to my great astonishment, I discovered that I was not declared to the town hall by my father, but by Yvonne André, a midwife, who attended the birth. It was her! Not only had she spent the night with me and given me her blood, but she felt the need to go and declare me at the mayor's office because I was alive, and thanks to her! I was able to dedicate my film to her.

But it does not end there. At the time of the release, I received a letter signed by Yvonne’s nephews who had seen her name in the credits of my film. Shocked, they confirmed that their aunt was an exceptional woman who had devoted all her life to her trade. They asked me if I wanted a picture, I said yes, of course. When I received it a few days later, I finally put a face on this woman with whom I spent the first night of my life. I am very proud to have her blood in my veins.