At 38, Amandine Gay is on all fronts. Filmmaker, sociologist, Afro-feminist activist, author, she multiplies the hats and the struggles. After two documentaries – open voice (2016) and A story of its own (2021) – she published A chocolate doll (La Découverte), end of 2021, autobiographical story around her quest for identity as a young woman born under X and her “right of a child to have seum for life”.
Today, from Montreal where she settled this summer, she is working on a new essay, a third documentary film, an exhibition and even a television series project. For The worldthe time of a virtual meeting, she looks back on the great chaos of her 20 years.
In what environment did you grow up?
In a rural environment, in a small village in the Lyon region, Montanay, where there were still only cows and fields. I went to school in Cailloux-sur-Fontaines. My mother was a teacher, my father a road-mender. Both are children of a worker and a stay-at-home mother: they are part of the generation that benefited from the “glorious thirty”, they were able to enjoy a more comfortable life than their parents.
We represented the small middle class, I learned to shop by looking at the bottom shelves to find the cheapest products. There was this worry about not making excessive or superfluous expenses – my parents didn’t go to the theatre, my mother didn’t wear make-up, didn’t wear perfume… but we had a garden and we ate well. At the end of the harvest, we went to pick up the vegetables that the farmers had not put on the market.
One of my teachers separated me from the others for several months, putting me at the back of the class behind a pile of boxes, with a skylight so that I could see the blackboard.
It was also the France before the destruction of the public service: I played sports, music, I missed nothing! There was a “resourceful” side to travel: we camped and hiked in all the mountain ranges, we toured Brittany in a trailer tent… It was a very rich childhood, after all.
What kind of student were you? Did you have your mother as a teacher?
Yes, I had it in CP: I can tell you that it was not my favorite year! My mother always defended equality, in class I had to call her mistress, and there was never any favoritism, on the contrary [rires]. I really liked the social life of the school, but not its discipline. Until the end of primary school, I was often punished – I moved too much, I fell from my chair, I laughed too hard… For me, there is a real dimension of sexism and racism in this: the Agitation is less tolerated when you’re a girl, black in addition, and even worse in the Lyon countryside of the 1990s, a hotbed of the French Catholic right and extreme right. One of my teachers separated me from the others for several months, putting me at the back of the class behind a pile of boxes, with a skylight so that I could see the blackboard.
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