MIFF 2016: Monsieur Mayonnaise (2016)

Director: Trevor Graham
Featuring: Mirka Mora, Phillipe Mora, Georges Mora, Marcel Marceau (archival footage), Hitler (archival footage)

https://www.facebook.com/monsieurmayonnaise/

In this documentary we follow Phillipe Mora as he retraces the history of his family through World War II and before while painting the scenes for a graphic novel about his families’ experiences and finding out things he never knew before.
During the Q&A after the film the director said he did know some of the things that Phillipe was going to find out beforehand, but he wanted his genuine reactions on film when he found out things so he did not tell him exactly what to expect.

Mirka Mora is also interviewed throughout the film and reveals some surprising things about why she paints a lot of ducks and birds (phallic symbols) and the significance of fences in her works that they represent the people left behind in the camps after she was rescued.

Phillipe Mora’s film career is covered including his debut at Cannes that caused a commotion for “humanising” Hitler with colour close up footage of him sourced from the CIA archives. I knew that he had directed the Howling III and Mad Dog Morgan with Dennis Hopper but not the other movies.

There are some very touching scenes with Phillipe meeting one of the children rescued by his father and the daughter of the family who sheltered his mother’s family during WWII. As he said he had to make the film as the original witnesses were starting to get thin on the ground.

When the story gets into Phillipe’s fathers work with the French Resistance it is also very interesting as it turned out Georges Mora worked with Marcel Marceau on some operations involving rescuing children from the Nazis. While they may have had differences in their mayonnaise recipes, their work with the children was never in doubt.

Marcel Marceau was Phillipe’s godfather and a frequent visitor of the family when they were in Australia. Phillipe thought he was a “weirdo” when he was younger due to him wanting to rub the left over olive oil all over himself whenever they had a salad. He did get to know him when he was older and they became good friends.

I don’t actually know when the graphic novel featured in the story is coming out as it is not mentioned in the documentary or during the Q&A afterwards. I am sure it will do very well when it is released.

There was a question of how Mirka Mora’s family was released from the camp when only 100 other people managed to be released. The answer was the French resistance was involved falsifying documents and also the Nazi officials where receptive to bribes.
This was a really enjoyable and interesting documentary about a family I had heard a lot about but didn’t really know their history. As Phillipe and the director said they had wanted to make a story together on the topic before, but didn’t want it to be so serious you would come out of the experience depressed.

The screening I saw it at was the world premiere with a lot of the family in attendance including Mirka Mora who got a lot of applause for yelling out and waving her bouquet around.

It was quite a shame that this documentary did not get a presale into television in Australia and had to be backed by a TV station in France, but they recognise the importance of their history.

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