Using archival material and documentary inquiry as her starting point, Émilie Rousset’s performative research projects explore theatrical potential in the gap between original documentation and its representation. She has collaborated with filmmaker Louise Hémon on the “Rituels” series, an evolving collection of films and performances which probe the rites of society by drawing upon the respective codes of theater and documentary cinema. Le Grand Débat recreates a televised debate using a collage of archives from presidential debates taking place between 1974 and 2017 through three short films and a recorded performance with humor an essential component.

Recorded live at the Festival d’Automne, the mechanism of the TV studio set and the codes of the live broadcast are brought to the stage in Le Grand Débat. Sitting opposite each other at a table, two actors, Emmanuelle Lafon and Laurent Poitrenaux, reenact these fragments before the audience and the cameras. This final debate, a mixture of rhetoric and adrenaline, has a filmic language all of its own, in addition to its own editing principles, decor and media-based history. With its extremely codified rules, this event is a true ritual of modern times. But is it a ritual for democracy or for television? The dividing line is a very fine one indeed.

The recorded event is presented in French. The virtual event is free and open to the public.


The video recording was posted on this page from September 15-19.


On September 18 at 4:45 p.m. (EDT), watch a recorded conversation in French with Rousset and Hémon following the online presentation of Le Grand Débat.


If you are in need of access accommodations in order to participate in this event, please contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or email at least 2 weeks in advance of the event date.




Devised and directed by: Émilie Rousset and Louise Hémon
With Emmanuelle Lafon and Laurent Poitrenaux and the voice of Leïla Kaddour-Boudadi
Visual and lighting design: Marine Atlan
Cameras: Marine Atlan and Mathieu Gaudet
Scenography: Émilie Rousset and Louise Hémon
Editing: Carole Borne
Scenography: Émilie Rousset and Louise Hémon
Music: Emile Sornin
Make-up: Camille Marquette
Sound,video: Romain Vuillet
Stage management, light: Jérémie Sanames
Administration and Production: Bureau Produire
A John Corporation production in association with Agathe Berman Studio
With support from Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of its New Settings programme
A coproduction with Festival d’Automne à Paris
In association with Théâtre de la Cité internationale (Paris) ; and Festival d’Automne à Paris
With support of DICRéAM and Hors Pistes / Centre Pompidou
First performed on December 10, 2018 at Théâtre de la Cité internationale (Paris) with the Festival d’Automne à Paris.

Presented By

  • Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society
  • French American Cultural Exchange Foundation
  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • Cultural Services of the French Embassy
  • Institut Français
  • Department of Art and Archaeology
  • Humanities Council
  • Center for French Studies
  • Department of French and Italian
  • L’Avant-Scène
  • Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies