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BERLINALE 2018 Forum

Claire Simon • Director

“It’s normal that you think your parents are a failure”


- BERLIN 2018: Claire Simon discusses her hybrid doc Young Solitude, in which ten teenage students help her tell stories about their experiences

Claire Simon  • Director

French director Claire Simon discusses her hybrid doc Young Solitude [+see also:
film review
interview: Claire Simon
film profile
, which has just screened in the Forum at the Berlin Film Festival. In it, ten teenage students at the Lycée Romain Rolland in Ivry-sur-Seine, just outside Paris, help her tell stories about their experiences.

Cineuropa: How did you meet the students?
Claire Simon:
 It was at a workshop. I was commissioned to make a short fiction film with these children. They were due to act in and be the crew for a film that I wrote and directed. 

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So how did you end up going from making a short fiction film to this feature?
I thought that in order to write something for these students, I would have to get to know them. So I said to them that I would come and interview them, and two of the students could help me to film these interviews. I told them that they should come and talk about solitude – let’s talk about the moments when you are alone: do you like it or hate it? I was looking to tell a story about friendship, but when they came along, there were all these family tales that were bursting out. I put together a documentary of these interviews, and it was 70 minutes long. I didn’t show it to them, but I thought it was beautiful. They said they didn’t want me to show that film, because the interviews were for me, and that’s when we came up with the idea of making Young Solitude.

So it’s a fiction film? 
It’s halfway between fiction and documentary, because I was interfering a lot in the discussion.

Why did you like the topic of solitude?
I thought it was something that I could share with them. When I made The Woods Dreams Are Made Of [+see also:
film review
film profile
, people would say that everyone was alone in the woods and that there was a lot of solitude, as if it were a crime. So I thought let’s keep digging around this idea, and also about this moment in life when they are growing up, moving from childhood to adulthood. I was telling them all the time that it is normal that you think your parents are a failure.

And what of the high school? 
I thought the place was so great. I loved the architecture, and I thought it was like a still elephant. Also, I liked the idea of an abstract portrait of the place created by these stories.

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