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Robin Campillo • Director

"I wanted to make several different films within a single work"


- French director and screenwriter Robin Campillo talked to Cineuropa about his second feature as a director, Eastern Boys, winner of the Orizzonti Prize for Best Film

Robin Campillo • Director

Mostra 2013 - French director and screenwriter Robin Campillo talked to Cineuropa about his second feature as a director, Eastern Boys [+see also:
interview: Robin Campillo
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, winner of the Orizzonti Prize for Best Film.

Cineuropa: You took almost 10 years to make your second film. What made you decide to carry out this project?

Robin Campillo: It's a project I had trailed around with me for quite a long time. Just after They Came Back, I spent a year writing a first screenplay. I presented it to some producers who were moderately interested and I realised that the project hadn't been sufficiently carried through, and that I didn't want to film it. It needed a longer period in which to mature, with more documentation on prostitution, and a sociologist friend told me about those young Moldavians who were using a kind of blackmail, both cunning and concerning, linked to paedophilia. I was very interested in this new angle and I went back to my writing, in my little corner, before setting off to find a producer not with a screenplay, but a kind of continuity in my hands.

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On several occasions, the film takes unpredictable directions. Was it your intention to surprise the viewer?

A French critic I appreciate a lot who had liked They Came Back had nevertheless reproached it for being a bit repetitive. I pay close attention to people's opinions and I had been very shocked by this remark. For my second film, I wanted to make a movie with several chapters, enabling me to constantly re-deal the cards and make several different films within a single work. The first chapter is a kind of report of what goes on in the "Gare du Nord" train station. The viewer doesn't yet know the characters and it's up to him to linger on one or another member of the group. In the second chapter, I film a dream which is more like a nightmare. I wanted a party scene with an intruder, but it had to be both disturbing and unhoped for. The hero takes a risk. The third chapter then focuses the viewer's attention on two of the characters and develops their relationship from an intimate point of view. The last chapter, in the hotel, takes another direction, though above all it testifies to a mutation. Power is reversed and we witness another invasion…

How did you approach your work with the actors?

Kirill Emelyanov who plays Marek is a Russian actor, a professional since the age of five. When we first met, he spoke neither French nor English, which was good from the point of view of the character's  authenticity, but it also required  a great deal of preparation for us to understand each other. He and the actor who plays Boss (Danil Vorobyev) are accomplished technicians. I have seen many Russian films and I took 9 months to find these actors. We postponed shooting for a year so as to be sure we had the right cast. I had them come to my home — the film was shot in my apartment — and I got them to improvise the party scene. It was very powerful, right from the start. I also had to be sure I would get Kirill's agreement for the erotic scenes. He was only 21 when we shot the movie. I explained to him that he had to imagine watching himself on the screen, having homosexual relations, imagine his family, friends, all that kind of thing, to be sure that he knew what he was getting into. It went off very well, especially because I devoted a lot of time to the actors, who also had total freedom to improvise throughout the shooting.

The issue of Roms is very delicate in Europe. Were you careful not to stigmatise this community?

I wanted to show this community without any papers in a nuanced way, and show that, in spite of everything, a kind of attachment is possible. The Roms lived through the horror of the war and other traumatising dramas which have touched me, but on the other hand I didn't want to portray them as angels. The film also addresses the relationship between hospitality and hostility that Jacques Derrida nicknamed "hospitality": the impression that a trap is set up for the guest by his host and vice versa.

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(Translated from French)

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