A daring genre-jumper from France, Rose Bosch is able to move across genres with ease, delivering three fine films that have not propelled the writer/director forward as they should have, despite the fact that one of them was a big hit in France.
With certain topics or stories – when they finally get filmed – it is hard to believe that they haven’t been tackled before. Rose Bosch’s striking second film, The Roundup (La Rafle), is a prime example. The film boldly tells of how during WW2, 38,000 French Jews were rounded up by French soldiers and detained for the Germans. Most ended up in the Nazi death camps. Rose Bosch decided on this explosive and divisive subject for her second feature (following 2005’s Animal) after talking about it with Alain Goldman, her friend and producer, for several years. “We’d been talking about the war, and specifically about doing something on ‘the round up’, because it was the darkest age of our history,” the director told FilmInk in 2010.
Bosch has not always been a filmmaker. Her first career was as a journalist. In that capacity, she toured the most troubled regions of the world, and saw first-hand what man is capable of. She has good cinematic taste in role models too, as she explains how filmmaking was added to her dream of being a reporter. “Since I was six-years-old, I wanted to be a journalist, but when I was fourteen, I saw Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, and it shook me. I realised that maybe if I was lucky enough or strong enough or both, I could make films too. I had been a writer and a reporter for fourteen years before I directed a film. I was devastated by what man can do to man. I continue to be amazed and fascinated by that. And of course it is still happening all over the world. This is the theme of barbarism, if you like. It’s about the way that we use scapegoats to redirect our base instincts, which is of course what happened to the Jews.”
Bosch doesn’t regret her late entry into filmmaking, as she feels that life on the journalistic road (where she took in such catastrophes as the floods in Bangladesh, and the refugee camps of the Cambodian border regions) gave her “mental structures. It gave me the experience that I needed to carry through. Our generation never knew real conflict like that, and it exposed me to how terrible we can be.”
From journalism, Bosch jumped into screenwriting, penning a number of French films, including 1998’s In All Innocence (an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s novel starring Carole Bouquet and Virginie Ledoyen), 1998’s comedy Bimboland, and 2003’s thriller The Pact Of Silence, starring Gerard Depardieu. Bosch also wrote the screenplay and served as a producer on Ridley Scott’s 1992 epic historical drama 1492: Conquest Of Paradise, which starred Gerard Depardieu as Christopher Columbus. Bosch parlayed her success as a screenwriter into a directing career, and made her debut in 2005 with the taut, low budget medical thriller Animal.
The Roundup, however, was a far bigger and more high-stakes project, dealing with massive, shameful moments in France’s history, and all on a much bigger budget. Bosch did not hesitate in calling the historical roundup “the biggest stain on French history ever.” There was much anti-Semitism in France, as there was everywhere at the time, and it could be mobilised. But it was the collaborationist French government that receives the fullest condemnation from Bosch. They had to hide what they were doing from the people, when instead they should have been hiding the innocent Jewish children. “The Germans were not even really ready to take the children,” Bosch says. “The government – if it had not been so anti-Semitic – could have dispersed them amongst the population, and made them almost impossible to find, but no…”
As shown in her tough little film, the French troops acting on the Germans’ behalf had to do the whole round up early in the morning. “They did it at 4:00am,” Bosch explains. “They did it in secret because they knew that the majority of the French people would have been against it.”
This also presented a problem for the filmmakers, as there was not one single metre of film as evidence of the round up itself. In all of Bosch’s research, she found only a handful of photos of the event. This lack of evidence, and the long and slightly grubby history of turning a blind eye to all of this, still irks many people in France. To their credit, the French ministry of education, when they found out about the making of the film, approached the filmmakers with a proposition. They asked to see what Bosch had. If it was serious, they said, then they would come on board. “We showed it just as it was, in very rough form, and they were completely convinced.” They were so convinced, in fact, that they produced a ten-page booklet of educational notes to accompany the film when shown in schools. In a small way, this made Bosch’s film a real intervention into doing what she wanted, which was to try and stop such things ever happening again.
The film doesn’t just have to rely upon being shown to captive audiences though. The Roundup is beautifully shot, and has great performances from big names like Jean Reno and Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds). Bosch was delighted that it did so well in France at the box office. “It did huge business,” the director smiled. “It took in more money in France than Schindler’s List or The Pianist.” Despite the success of The Roundup, Bosch has only disappointingly made one film since. From medical thriller and historical drama, Bosch moved to family comedy-drama with 2014’s My Summer In Provence, in which she reunited with Jean Reno. The French legend plays a grandfather caught up in a little generational warfare with his teen and pre-teen grandchildren, with the film showcasing Bosch’s surprisingly deft comic touch.
With only a vague upcoming project in the form of a film about Russian mystic and madman Rasputin, Rose Bosch’s career – like many of her female counterpoints in the US – appears to have sadly stalled. A filmmaker adept at establishing a strong sense of tone and style across a range of genres, Rose Bosch should be working a lot more…
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