Polisse (released at some film festivals as Poliss, [pɔˈlis]) is a 2011 French drama film written, directed by and starring Maïwenn. It also stars Joeystarr, Karin Viard, Marina Foïs, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Emmanuelle Bercot and Riccardo Scamarcio. The film centres on the Child Protection Unit (Brigade de Protection des Mineurs) of the Paris Police, and a photographer who is assigned to cover the unit. The title is derived from Maïwenn's son's misspelling of the word "police".
The film won the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and in 2012, was nominated for thirteen César Awards.
The police of a Child Protection Unit squad try to maintain their sanity and their home lives without being destroyed by their work, tracking paedophiles, arresting parents suspected of mistreating their children, following teenage pickpockets, runaways or those sexually exploited, helping in the protection of homeless children and the victims of rape. In moments of relaxation the squad gossip, quarrel, drink, dance; relationships tremble, break and are remade or newly made. Their boss is a political policeman, not wholly sympathetic to the demands of their consciences, and ready to tighten the leash if the man they are questioning has powerful friends. At the centre of the story is a hard-edged, bitter yet tender policeman (Joeystarr) and a photographer (played by director Maïwenn) whose assignment is to follow the squad in their work.
Maïwenn got the idea for the film when she saw a documentary about the Child Protection Unit on television. She was allowed to stay with the officers of the unit to research the subject and get to know what kind of people they were. All the cases in the screenplay were based either on things the director had witnessed during her time with the unit or older cases they told her about. Not letting the viewers know the verdicts of the defendants was a conscious choice, because the police officers seldom get to know it either. Maïwenn wrote a first draft for the screenplay on her own, and was then joined by Emmanuelle Bercot.
The film was produced for €6.14 million through Les Films du Trésor in co-production with Arte France Cinéma and Mars Films. The production received pre-sales investment from Canal+ and CinéCinéma. Maïwenn only wanted to cast actors who would be credible in the roles of policemen: "In my opinion all of them had to have a common feature - they had to look like working class people and speak in vernacular Parisian French." Two former members of the CPU were hired to train the actors.
Filming took place in Paris between 30 August and 29 October 2010. The film was digitally recorded with two or three cameras in each scene. Editing took three months.
The world premiere took place at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the film was screened in the main competition on 13 May. The regular French release was on 19 October through Mars Distribution.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter compared the film to "a whole season of The Wire packed into a single two-hour-plus film, ... and even with its loose threads and frenzied structure, it convincingly jumps from laughter to tears and back again, never losing sight of the brutal realities at its core." In Screen Daily's review from the festival, Jonathan Romney called Maïwenn "undeniably a very strong director of actors, especially when it comes to the delicate scenes involving the various children. She's less adept, though, at judging what is dramatically essential and what is surplus to requirements". The film won the Cannes Film Festival's Jury Prize.
Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian newspaper was much less positive. He described the film as "a strong contender for the most awful film of the competition" and "much of it feels like a pretty dodgy evening in front of the television: less The Wire, more The Bill. But I don't think any director of The Bill would have permitted the toe-curlingly embarrassing overacting we get in this movie".
Peter Schöning, defined in his review for German Der Spiegel "Poliss(e)" as "a cry for help which became a film." ("Poliezei", das ist ein Film gewordener Hilferuf...) He added this was "not merely because of the abused children and young delinquents whose cases Maïwenn mentions in her film without showing pictures of them..." (Nicht nur der kindlichen Missbrauchsopfer und jugendlichen Missetäter wegen, deren Fälle Maïwenn in ihrem Film zur Sprache bringt, ohne sie im Bild selbst vorzuführen...) but "...as well because of those policemen who have to enforce the law but moreover have to perform a great deal of social work - hereby permanently being overstrained." (... auch aufgrund jener Polizisten, die zwar der Strafverfolgung dienen, vor allem aber Sozialarbeit leisten - und dabei durchweg überfordert sind.) He concludes: "Despite all the ugly things told in this film Polisse has a beauty which derives from its pursuit of truthfulness." ("Poliezei" besitzt bei all dem Hässlichen, von dem der Film zu berichten hat, eine Schönheit, die aus seinem Streben nach Wahrhaftigkeit stammt). Spiegel Online supplemented this review by an in-depth interview with the film's director.