TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


The Blue Notebook

Isabelle Collombat



Paris, August 1994. Katrin, an experienced radio reporter, leaves for Goma, a city in Zaire. She is about to cover the end of “Turquoise”, a humanitarian operation launched two months earlier by the French government and its army to help civilians after the genocide in Rwanda.

At the request of her boss, she takes Elsa with her, an 18-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a photojournalist. The presence of Elsa annoys Katrin: clueless and clumsy, she is a burden for her as she is investigating the dark side of the French intervention in Rwanda. She heard weapons might have been sold to the Hutu killers during and after the genocide, despite the UN embargo.

Pictures taken fortuitously by Elsa in a refugee camp will encourage Katrin to follow a risky trail.

When Katrin disappears, Elsa, in turn, starts an investigation to find out what really happened. In her quest for truth, the young woman fulfils Katrin’s legacy, and continues the enquiry into the weapons trade.


The Blue Notebook is an adaptation of a novel I wrote for teenagers, inspired by my own experience. Freshly graduated from the journalism school, I started working in Goma few weeks after the genocide in Rwanda. The film addresses a chapter of my country’s history that is still a taboo, despite the mass of books, documents, and reports existing: the involvement of France in the Rwandan genocide.

A couple of films have already approached the topic from another angle. Never head-on and from the perspective of a girl who has just turned 18. Elsa is at an age when she has to make choices. One experience after another will decide the course of her life. She will lose her innocence. She will understand that a handful of fellow citizens, a clan at the head of the French State, decided a secret diplomacy on their own, helping a fanatic African regime to maintain its power at the price of genocide.

The film, while dealing with awareness raising, passion and commitment, is ultimately about memory. The aim being to entice viewers and address these themes creatively and truthfully, I imagine a hybrid sort of film, using archival footage, and combining live-action with animation.

Only from afar can you get the whole picture.For a good photo, you must risk getting closer.
Isabelle Collombat


production notes

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