Hot topic : To see the world in another way

25 May

Thomas and Fabrice Gabison Osinski are the  laureates of the latest Millenium Webdoc Meetings for “D’une rue à l’autre”, their web-documentary project  about post-apartheid in South Africa. Already authors of a first project called “127 rue de la Garenne“, the two French have made a prominent place on the transmedia  stage. They’ve invented a new form of writing by appealing to forms of storytelling that goes back from tapestry to comic strips, and adapting those to the web. 

“After World War II, France has called a lot of  foreign workers for rebuilding the country. Those people found themselves in hell and faced the administration but they still remained united and worthy.” Fabrice Osinski sets the scene for “127, rue de la Garenne”, one of the 500 shantytowns in France. We dive into the heart of the Paris region, in Nanterre, late 1960s.

World Champions of the mud
After many years of service to the French nation, thousands of foreigners, mainly from Algeria, are facing a shame that few French people know, even today. Shantytowns springing up in the Hexagon. Wooden barracks, the clay, the soil rarely cemented, running water is then the dream of absolute luxury. There is only one water point for every 10,000 habitants in shantytown, no electricity, no comfort, awful sanitary conditions. Mud, physical symbol of shame, people lived whith it. Residents invented a thousand and one ways to be able to work with clean shoes. The 127 rue de la Garenne, administrative address of the shantytown, hides the  suffering of thousands of families. No surprise it was called ‘La Folie’ (the madness).

The mud is a daily companion. Rats thrive and invite themselves to the table of the dwellers. In the middle of this human cataclysm, children rejoined their father who’d  left them for what they thought to be the French Eldorado. Left behind, these families are tracked by the Brigade Z, the infamous militia set up by Maurice Papon. In charge for maintaining the order, the shantytown was considered as a  “powder magazine”. Although the shantytowns do not exist today as such, housing remains a real issue for the Hexagon. “It was a profound crisis of housing, which still exists today in reality” says Fabrice Osinski. “It was a city within a city, more than 10,000 people lived there.”

In the middle of this unenviable picture, it smells perfume of solidarity at 127 rue de la Garenne. The smallest element of comfort, any carpet, any artifice is welcomed as a blessing. Those people had nothing, but they still survived because of their mutual aid.

The concern of memory

Demolished in 1971, La Folie is now replaced by the André Malraux park and Amandiers Theater. “There is no trace today, not even a sign.” Thomas Gabison, Fabrice Osinski and Laurent Maffre endeavored to revive the various testimonies of the shantytown-dwellers collected by Monique Hervo, established at La Folie in 1962. “She was a kind of activist, self-proclaimed social worker describes Fabrice Osinski. “She worked as a public writer, humanitarian associations did not exist at the time.” Monique Hervo decided to write a folder per family by taking notes every day. She then bought a tape recorder and collect 170 hours of tapes.

A new form of writing

“The shape of webdoc, we did not like it at first, for our work at least. But at the same time, we wanted to make a web project!” The idea of the frieze came like any other original concept: naturally. The frieze scrolls and tells us a story through sound and image. This kind of storytelling has attracted the professional world. Both authors are optimistic about ability to transfer this concept to other projects “Unconsciously, we’re back on a very old form of storytelling. The idea of the frieze is as old as the idea of comic storytelling or, far in the past, as the Bayeux Tapestry. But we are now on the axis of the third revolution of writing internet. “

“127 rue de la Garenne” slows consumption and allows users to take the time to stop. By combining sound and design in this way, the authors of this web documentary have invented a new form of writing and took fellow last the webdoc area.

“D’une rue à l’autre”

After the success of their first web-documentary, the authors of “127” have already received several awards for their new project “D’une rue à l’autre” (Millennium Webdoc Meetings, SCAM) . “We want to tell stories”, says Fabrice Osinski. “D’une rue à l’autre” will focus on post-apartheid at the heart of South Africa based on archives of the AMC, Nelson Mandela’s party. “We want to tell how the country has changed, what is still fragile, how the country looks at its history? How is it the only African country to have reached independance without a civil war? ” Once again, Thomas and Fabrice Gabison Osinski’s work with authors and illustrators out there. “We do not believe in artistic tourism for this kind of project. “

Another project on track: the story of trade unionism through a mining disaster in Clarence (France), in 1912.

There is no doubt that the two authors will surprise us once again with their artistic sensibilities and their desire to see the world in another way.

Gil Lejeune


Thomas Gabison is the creator and manager of BD Actes Sud. As a child, passionate of comic book, he spent his free time in Parisian bookshops devouring the albums. His training as a graphic designer makes the most publishers and textbooks involved in the process of making comics it publishes. Thomas Gabison has already obtained: Big Jury Prize at Angouleme with the Italian artist  Gipi “Notes pour une histoire de guerre”, The Prix France Info for  “Exit Wounds” with the Israelian Rutu Modan, and the  revelation price for Camille Jourdy “Rosalie Blum”.

Fabrice Osinski is a sound engineer for almost ten years for shooting (fiction and documentaries). This passionate for sound share his time between making movies (“La voie des autres”, second prize of the jury at the festival “Territoires en Images” 2012 – Institute of Geography, Paris) and radio documentaries (“Bayangam spotters – revolution”, La Première – RTBF). His recent collaborations were done with Sarah Moon Howe “Vivre avec Méduse”, selected for Price Phonurgia Nova), “Avant que les murs tombent”, a Eve Duchemin documentary, et “Chaumières” by Emmanuel Marre. Fabrice Osinski is also a producer in Brussels (CineSilex).

Laurent Maffre wsa born in 1976 in Rodez, associate professor, teaches the applied arts in Paris. In 2006, he began a parallel activity to comic artist with his debut album “L’homme qui s’évada” from the surveys of Albert Londres about prison. In 2008, he published “Les chambres du cerveau”, adapted from the new “Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson. “Demain, demain”, is the third book, published in 2012, is located at the intersection of documentary and fiction. It deals with the fate of an Algerian family in the 1960’s, from the Nanterre shantytown to its relocation.

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