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“I wanted to bring our relationship with the farming world into question”

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Laurent Teyssier • Director


- French filmmaker Laurent Teyssier triumphed in Warsaw’s 1-2 Competition with his impressively crafted feature debut, Toril

Laurent Teyssier • Director
Laurent Teyssier with his Best Film in the 1-2 Competition award (© Rafal Nowak / WFF)

Young French filmmaker Laurent Teyssier has won the award for the Best Film in the 1-2 Competition at the 32nd Warsaw Film Festival with his impressively crafted feature debut, Toril [+see also:
film review
interview: Laurent Teyssier
film profile
. Cineuropa had a chance to talk to the director about his work.

Cineuropa: One big issue in the film is the fate of small farmers face all over Europe, being swallowed up by the big supermarket chains and an apparently endless expansion of big capital. Why did you decide to address this specific problem?
Laurent Teyssier:
My family owns some land in the south of France, between Nîmes and Avignon, and I spent a great deal of my childhood doing farm work, rubbing shoulders with farmers. I wanted to immerse the audience in that world, a world I know very well. 82,000 hectares of French farmland disappears every year, that’s the equivalent an entire department every seven years. Over the course of Philippe’s journey with his father, Jean-Jacques, I wanted to bring our relationship with the farming world into question and to learn how our generation can manage and develop our farming heritage.

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The other issue that jumps out is the differentiation between the guy who grows a small amount of weed and sells it, and the big dealers. Or is the issue that no differentiation is possible?
My standpoint is that, as soon as you jump in an illegal business, you cross a line that might appeal to the worst. Although, the movie shows that things can be grey and not just black and white, trying to stay “the little fish”, alongside, yet separate from, the “big fish”. It can get out of control but leads to a balanced conclusion: some will find it very dark, while others will see it as being full of hope. Therefore, if differentiation is possible, it still has a cost.

It's a very powerful film, not only in terms of subject matter and the emotions it evokes, but also in terms of rhythm and dynamics. How did you achieve this? This "drive" seems to come more from the storytelling approach…
Along with Guillaume Grosse, the scriptwriter, our initial idea was to create a nerve-wracking and tense film. We worked on the script for a number of years, and we were constantly trying to intensify the story, to concentrate on Philippe and tell the story solely from his point of view. The most difficult part about doing that is making sure it is balanced enough that the other characters are still brought to life. Editor Nicolas Capus’ talent was also essential in giving the film its intense, yet not too fast-paced, rhythm.

It's an excellent cast, with strong, well known actors, although these were not always obvious choices, coming both from cinema and TV. In the film credits, there are five companies, some of them are big in French, and even European terms. How did you manage to gather all these around a first feature film project for both you and your co-writer?
I’ve been working with Tita Productions, and my producers Fred Premel and Christophe Bouffil, since my first short in 2007. In some respects, it’s like we’ve grown up together, and these bonds helped us when we had to find the ways to convince the financial partners. The quality of the script and my previous shorts were our main weapons in the fight to defend the project, but the battle was long and arduous.

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