The war in Mali in a shock series: it’s Sentinelles, by the creator of Un Village…

New French series for OCS, “Sentinelles” closely follows the soldiers of Operation Barkhane in Mali and focuses on the humans behind the uniforms. Meeting with two of the stars of fiction, Louis Peres and Pauline Parigot.

Under scorching heat, a handful of soldiers cross the desert of Mali. They don’t know it yet, but in a split second, their lives will change after an ambush. With Sentinelles, the creators Frédéric Krivine (A French Village) and Thibault Valetoux (Totems) are interested in the anti-jihadist operation Barkhane carried out by French troops in the African state. Although the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced, on February 17, the military withdrawal from Mali, the subject is still topical.

Composed of seven episodes, the series paints a portrait of these men and women in the field. This is not a story about war, but about the scars, complexities and questions of those who fight. “With this project, I wanted to demystify this great mute that is the armylaunches Louis Peres (Germinal), which holds one of the main roles. Sentinels goes closer to the people who are behind the uniform.”

After a few days of training with professionals, filming begins in France for the scenes in the barracks and the armored vans. “We were in a studio, sitting in a cardboard box. The decorator sat on it to make it moveremembers the actress Pauline Parigot. We started in easy conditions, then reality caught up with us.“After ten days in France, the team flew to Morocco to shoot the sequences located in Mali.

The war in mali in a shock series: it's sentinelles, by the creator of un village...
Pascal Aimar/OCS/Tetra Media

The soldiers of “Sentinelles” in one of the van scenes, shot in France.

In the middle of summer, for two and a half months, the experience was extreme. “Even the locals told us we were crazylaughs Louis Peres. The temperature rose to 58 degrees. Moreover, the cameras stopped several times.“To support the equipment, the actors provided significant body work, but not only. “Unlike the Americans, who rely a lot on physical preparation, we mainly had a French approach, namely intellectual”, specifies Pauline Parigot.

I took pleasure in being undermined like men.

In Sentinels, the actress plays a lieutenant who struggles to impose her authority over the soldiers. In reality, there are very few female lieutenants in the military. “Senior officers tend to occupy positions in communicationshe explains. When I was seen having difficulty wearing the costume, I was reminded that that was why there was no lieutenant, but the physical aspect takes work.”

The war in mali in a shock series: it's sentinelles, by the creator of un village...
Pascal Aimar/OCS/Tetra Media

Louis Peres, Pauline Parigot and Issaka Sawadogo.

To compose her character, Pauline Parigot met a staff sergeant in the combat section: “She gave me the ordeals she had been able to experience as a woman. The army is a violent but paradoxical environment. Gender differences are both exacerbated and annihilated. I took pleasure in being undermined like men.”

In the guise of Julien, Louis Peres plays a man plagued by guilt after a terrible accident. “It was already very written, you just had to soak up what was there black on whitehe says. As an actor, you have to ask yourself why. Why he reacts like that and trying to answer it, we find arches and under these arches, we will try to build our character and that’s where we talk about it to the director, Jean-Philippe Amar. From this discussion, yet another character emerges. Then we put everything to the test of the shooting and we simply react with what the colleagues send back to us. It’s all about trust.

Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Lille, March 22, 2022.

Sentinels is available on OCS from April 5.

Find the issue of our podcast Encounters with Samy Sedhir, featured in the “Sentinels” series:

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