What better way to end the celebration of the 20 years of the Foundation and of the death of Professor Lejeune than to go back to what started this whole adventure: Jérôme Lejeune’s passion for medicine! Encounter with François Lespès, film-maker.
“Where could I find a good story for my next documentary? “ That is exactly what François Lespès was asking himself as he was finishing his third movie. In 2012, François has no idea what his next subject will be. He is in the United States for a shooting and decides to attend a gathering at the Cristal cathedral in California.
Throughout the day, he is moved by several testimonies, and that of one daughter of Professor Jérôme Lejeune. She speaks of her father’s life and professional career.
After this, François starts doing research about the subject and what he reads is an amazing story worthy of any Greek tragedy: the dazzling ascent of a very bright young scientist, and his fall, as quick and brutal as was his ascent. François discovers a completely different man from the old-fashioned, caricatural man he had believed him to be for years.
As he carries on reading, he discovers the willpower of a defender, passionate about life and, more importantly, a “great name of French science that everyone has tried to forget”. And here comes his next documentary subject: tell the Jérôme Lejeune story. Coincidence: this idea comes up on the 20th anniversary of Jérôme’s death. For 40 years, Jérome Lejeune’s opponents have never ceased to ridicule his battle for life while completely occulting the gift he made to the scientific world. The making of a documentary film is a good way to put Jérôme back in his field of expertise: medicine, research and, more largely, science.
After having spent some time looking into the Lejeune family’s archives, François, with the help of Caroline Maillard, comes out with the first shot of a scenario. It soon becomes clear: he must take the opportunity given by the making of the film to reintroduce this great 20th century scientist using the tale of his vocation as a physician. It indeed seems impossible to François to explain and make people understand Jérôme Lejeune’s commitment to life and to the defence of his patients living with Down Syndrome without explaining his passion for medicine and for his patients.
To give this great attachment to his patients more substance and make it more concrete, François asked the families of Jérôme Lejeune’s first patients to speak for themselves. He recorded very strong testimonies of parents who speak very simply of how the discovery of this physician, who devoted his life to caring for and accompanying children like theirs, comforted them.
François is finally hit by the strength of these memories: 20 years after his death, Jérôme Lejeune is still very alive in the memories of all the people that he questions. This statement is confirmed by Keenan Kampa, the young godmother of the Foundation’s 20th anniversary: “Jérôme Lejeune’s legacy is well and truly alive!”