"There are some people who, at 30, still haven't freed themselves the way Benoît does"
by Aida Amasuno Martín
- SAN SEBASTIAN 2015: Cineuropa met up with Rudi Rosenberg, director of The New Kid - the winning film in the Basque film festival’s New Directors section
Rudi Rosenberg is over the moon. When making his directorial debut, he wanted to tell a story that was close to his heart, a story about prejudice and acceptance into the inner circle of a group. Dynamic, passionate and curious, Rosenberg couldn’t wait to hear what the audience thought after his film, The New Kid [+see also:
interview: Rudi Rosenberg
film profile], was screened in the New Directors section at the 63rd San Sebastián Film Festival. He wasn’t disappointed: his first ever feature film ended up winning first prize, and it was well earned, too. The New Kid is a little gem that speaks to teens and adults alike, a funny, light-hearted film, but not without its complexity and nuance. He confesses to us that, as a child, he used to make ridiculous lists and takes on a playful tone to tell us about all the pranks he pulled with his childhood friend, Max Boublil. Beside him sits young actor Joshua Raccach, a joker who’s happy to have lived through the experience of this festival – and he’s just as enthusiastic as Rosenberg. An electric encounter with a man who has almost been freed and a promising actor.
Cineuropa: Given that we hear so much about the problems that schoolchildren face (bullying, discrimination, etc), did you want your film to have a particular message?
Rudi Rosenberg: I wanted to take on the topic of the “complexes” that people can have in a comedic and casual way, because it’s painful for a lot of people. When we started filming I didn’t know what the film was going to say, but in the end the message that the film conveys is that you have to free yourself from what other people think and to have as much fun with people you don’t know as you do with the people you really like. When you think about it, there are things that Benoît manages to do in six months that some people haven’t managed to do in 30 years.
This film continues on from a short film, and includes Aglaé who has a physical disability...
That’s not how it was going to play out while we were writing. In the beginning I wanted a bunch of kids who were a little different, on the periphery of society, and I said to myself, “Why not because of a physical disability?” So we added Aglaé’s character and we saw that it worked. The New Kid, however, doesn’t have the same message as the short film. In the short, there was a love story; this film, not so much. All the kids in Benoît’s circle are all sort of handicapped in their own way.
In your eyes, what is it about The New Kid that makes it different from other films?
If you take a close look at it, you could discover a whole heap of things, details... It’s a really nuanced film: it makes you laugh, but it also makes you think at the same time. The thing that really sets it apart from American movies is that the film finishes happily, but not how you would have expected. He might not get the girl, but the friendships he forges, they’re for life. For me, there’s a sentence that sums the whole thing up: “Excellence isn’t just one detail; it’s all the details put together.” I’m not saying my film is excellent, but I’ve well and truly tried to pay attention to every detail.
As an actor, how did you decide to take the plunge and become a director?
It all sort of happened by accident. I had been working as an actor, and after that I went to film school. But as I became a director, I realised that the only thing that really interested me was directing actors, so I said to myself that I had to write a story that would be able to serve as an excuse to do lots of work with the actors. I was then driven towards the teenage world, because I love when things happen for real, and for teenagers, it’s like that: when they laugh, it’s for real.
What were the aspects of your personal life that you drew on to make this film?
When I was young, I was a Benoît, too – a little shy. I was the new kid of the class, and I made lists, too. My best friend was Max Boublil, and together we’d pull all sorts of pranks! For example, seeing as Max lived above a hairdresser’s, we’d often get our kicks by pouring water or Coke onto the heads of the women leaving the salon. I really wanted to tell the story of that magical period of my life.
(Translated from French)