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Cannes Film Festival: French-Lebanese actress Manal Issa on portraying an icon in MARIA SCHNEIDER, 1983


It was in 1983 when the avant-gardist actress Maria Schneider denounced sexism and the labeling of women in cinema. Fast-forward to 2022 when an equally vocal personality Manal Issa expressed her thoughts about a relatable role in Maria Schneider, 1983 and that was part of the Directors' Fortnight short films selection.

AM: What drew you to the project?
When the director Elisabeth Subrin called me, I wasn’t very familiar with Maria Schneider. So, I watched her infamous interview where she talks about how cinema could be toxic to women and I fell in love with her mindset. Her experiences were things I can sympathize with. I had to replicate every moment she did in that segment and I worked for almost three months on repeating the scenes, the way she smokes, looks and talks. She is a very strong and sarcastic women. It started as imitation and then it became a personification. Elisabeth also wanted an all-female cast, in front and behind the camera, so it was really a passion project from the heart to the heart.

AM: And as actress how do you relate to Maria Schneider?
We have to say what is annoying us and voice our opinions to improve the situation and anticipate change. It’s not about being congratulated for a role, but about actually enjoying the filming process and how I am being appreciated as an actress and compensated. It’s not about a quota of women, but concerns the mentality from the inside. Most of the roles I get are women who suffer from something mental or physical, as if a woman without problems couldn’t exist. A woman can be a problem-solver, so we need more of that in cinema.

AM: How did the experience change you?
Well, it’s not the end yet because Elisabeth is working on a feature film about Maria Schneider, and I will be part of it. We want to continue the mission of Maria and amplify women’s rights in the field of cinema.

AM: Being Lebanese, what is the local cinema missing in your opinion?
The lack of funding. A film that doesn’t please the investor will not have a chance. And unfortunately, they often gravitate towards safe topics, topics that are quite redundant and somehow cliché. The talent and ideas are there, it’s more about the support of investors.

AM: What are you hoping to get out of Cannes?
For me it’s an honor to participate, but I am not in Cannes for the glamour, I am here for the art. What I truly want is for Elisabeth to get the support for her upcoming Maria Schneider film.

Synopsis: In 1983, French actress Maria Schneider gives an interview for the TV show Cinéma Cinémas. The conversation takes an unexpected turn when she challenges film industry practices and is asked to talk about the controversial film Last Tango in Paris (1972).

By Victor N.