The Innocents, set in Poland in 1945, tells the true story of the Red Cross doctor Madeleine Pauliac (“Mathilde” in the film) who cared for Benedictine nuns who were violated and, in some cases, made pregnant by Soviet soldiers. The French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) shows the nuns going through feelings of shame, faith, love and motherhood, while a strong friendship develops between Mathilde, an atheist communist, and Maria, one of the nuns.

I met Fontaine while she was presenting The Innocents at the London Film Festival.

How did you come across this story?

The French producers the Altmayer brothers came to me one day and said: “We have a story for you. We know that this story is for you.” I was very curious to know what kind of story it was. And they started talking about this incredible story, about this convent where many Sisters were pregnant after being raped by the Soviet army.

They knew the story because they had met Philippe Maynial, the nephew of the French doctor of the Red Cross. Philippe was in possession of a diary where all the details were written and he had the idea of making a movie about Madeleine Pauliac.

He worked alone for two or three years and nothing happened. He then wrote a script with two young writers, and one day the Altmayer brothers came across it and they thought: “Anne will be the right person to make this movie.”

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