“Saint Omer”: what tragic incident is the film that will represent France at the Oscars inspired by?

In the film “Saint Omer”, which will be released in cinemas on November 23, director Alice Diop takes an interest in the Fabienne Kabou affair. A mother sentenced on appeal to fifteen years of criminal imprisonment in 2017 for infanticide.

Double prize at the 79th edition of the Venice Film Festival last September, and chosen to represent France at the next Oscars ceremony in March 2023, “Saint Omer” follows the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), a mother of Senegalese origin accused of having killed her daughter by abandoning her on a beach in northern France.

Behind this drama expected on November 23 at the cinema, hides the true story of Fabienne Kabou. On November 19, 2013, this woman left her home in Saint-Mandé, in the Paris suburbs, to reach the town of Berck-sur-Mer in Pas-de-Calais by train, then by bus. It was there, on a beach at rising tide, that this mother abandoned Adélaïde, her 15-month-old daughter who had never been declared to the civil status.

The next day, a fisherman found the girl’s lifeless body. The investigators initially imagined that it was a migrant whose boat had capsized. But very quickly, suspicion turned to Fabienne Kabou who, after declaring that she had sent her daughter to her mother in Senegal, confessed to the crime. “I ended his life because it was easier that way,” she admitted in police custody.

Twenty years of criminal imprisonment in first instance

His trial began in 2016 before the Assize Court of Saint-Omer. “Kabou dropped off his 15-month-old daughter on a beach in Berck at rising tide, it’s November 19, 2013, it’s past 9 p.m., the temperatures are quite close to 0, this little girl is doomed to certain death, recalled the Advocate General, Pascale Girardon, in her indictment. What is reproached to Fabienne Kabou is to have killed “Ada”, but also to have premeditated her gesture for a long time (…). The simple fact of having hidden her pregnancy, of having deprived her daughter of a legal existence, was there not already this idea of ​​a quick, macabre end?

This mother, who faced life imprisonment, was sentenced in the first instance to twenty years’ imprisonment, the justice having retained the alteration of discernment.

Witchcraft to justify his act

Tried on appeal in Douai in 2017, before the North Court, Fabienne Kabou pleaded “not guilty”. “I feel that something or someone acted within me to murder my daughter. A bit as if someone had ordered his death, by my hands, and killing two birds with one stone, since he also ruined my life”, explained at the time this forties, born in Dakar in a family wealthy, who had moved to Paris after his baccalaureate.

If Fabienne Kabou, an intellectual with an above-average IQ, evoked witchcraft to justify her gesture, what about her companion Michel Lafon, painter-sculptor and progenitor from Adelaide? When the little girl was born in 2012, the accused, who had already aborted twice, and her partner, thirty years her senior, lived in a relationship in a vacuum. And Fabienne Kabou gave birth alone in her husband’s workshop, the latter having gone to join his brother.

On her return, the young woman explained to her that she had given birth at the Bluets maternity ward and had declared the child to the town hall. She was no longer close to a lie. She then hid her newborn from her relatives, before committing the irreparable.

Recognized as “sick”, Fabienne Kabou was sentenced on appeal to fifteen years’ imprisonment. A sentence accompanied by a socio-judicial follow-up of eight years with an order for care.

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“Saint Omer”: what tragic incident is the film that will represent France at the Oscars inspired by?