Elle s'appelle Sabine

France 2007, Documentary, 85' | Director, Screenplay Sandrine Bonnaire | DoP Sandrine Bonnaire, Catherine Cabrol | Editor Svetlana Vaynblat | Sound Jean-Bernard Thomasson, Phillippe Richard | Music Nicolas Piovani, Jefferson Lernbeye, Walter N´Guyen | Production Camille Rousselet

Sandrine: What does love mean to you?
Sabine: It makes me feel happy.

With Elle s'appelle Sabine, the French actor Sandrine Bonnaire has produced a sensitive portrait of her sister who has suffered from autism since childhood. Sandrine visits the 38-year-old Sabine in the nursing home and accompanies her during the daily routine. The film makes palpable the love given to Sabine, even if the film-maker sister only rarely steps in front of the camera. Sabine repeatedly asks when the next visit will be and how long this present one is going to last.

Elle s'appelle Sabine is also a film in which a popular actor reveals a large part of her private life. Whenever old family photos are used to interrupt the film footage, Sandrine narrates a small piece of family history ? of the first signs of illness, of Sabine's conspicuous behaviour at school and of misguided attempts to help her. The stay at a psychiatric clinic has left its own scars and, as the mother of an epileptic in the home puts it, "The guilt remains with you your whole life. Even when you know you are not guilty of anything".

Since it has always been Sabine's biggest wish to travel to America, the two sisters fly by Concorde to New York when this becomes possible. At the end, Sabine wants to see the film again. "Should I switch off the camera?? Sandrine asks. No, says Sabine, these are tears of happiness.


Sandrine Bonnaire was born 1967 in Gannat, France, as one of ten children in a working-class family. At the age of sixteen, she acted in A nos amours (To Our Loves) directed by Maurice Pialat and won a César Award for Most Promising Actress. In 1985, she gained international fame with Sans toit, ni loi (Vagabond) directed by Agnès Varda, picking up another César and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award. Today, Sandrine Bonnaire is one of the most well-known and popular actors in France. The film version of Flaubert's Un coeur simple directed by Marion Laine comes to cinemas this year. Elle s'appelle Sabine was her first film as director.

Sandrine Bonnaire