Philippe Faucon • Director
"It’s about creating something authentic, right and true"
- CANNES 2018: Philippe Faucon talks about his 10th feature film Amin, well-received at the 50th Directors' Fortnight at the 71st Cannes Film Festival
Back at the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival two years after unveiling Fatima [+see also:
interview: Philippe Faucon
film profile], French director Philippe Faucon, faithful to his values of simplicity and accuracy, talks about the origins of his new film, Amin [+see also:
interview: Philippe Faucon
film profile], a pure film about a Senegalese man working alone in France without his family.
Cineuropa: Why have you chosen to tackle the theme of immigration – a common thread that runs through your entire filmography – from a new angle?
Philippe Faucon: It’s a subject that Yasmina Nini-Faucon tackles in her family novel. By talking to her and other friends who, like us, have parents or grandparents who came to France but who weren’t French and didn’t speak French, I realised that the story was a recurring one, almost inherent to the different periods of immigration that have succeeded one another, such as Italian immigration in the 1960s or Maghrebi immigration in the 1970s. During these periods of separation, some people have relationships, lasting or transient encounters, and sometimes they even have other children in the country they’re working in. We told ourselves that it was an essential, vital part of these circumstances, and that it was a story that most profoundly summed up a life of exile and separation. We tried to do some research on the current situation. These days there’s more of a focus on sub-Saharan immigration, mainly countries such as Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, with men in shelters for homeless men leading the lives of single men.
How did you approach the Senegalese side to the film, while avoiding the local colour side?
We were interested in what lies behind the postcard setting. It was about telling the story of what is human, as well as separation, exile, and the dull, throbbing pain that often doesn’t have a means of expression. Because these people can’t express themselves with words, so they carry a burden, guarding with fixed glances and expressions that say even more about their inhibited speech than words can. We tried to create real-life situations and characters, without creating something we’ve all seen before, by meeting people who are living in these conditions as we speak, primarily single men, workers living in hostels, but also, while we were researching locations, the women waiting for their husbands in their countries of origin, raising their children single-handedly.
Family is another major subject that is tackled in the film with Amin’s family, but also Gabrielle’s family, the French woman he has an affair with.
Indeed, there is a whole level to the film that focuses on broken, separated families. in both cases, and for different reasons. And the subject is tackled via the characters involved in Amin's life: the people who have stayed in the country he’s from and the people he meets in the country he is forced to travel to for work. And around him, there are also other characters who are in the same situation but are different ages and at different stages in their lives, such as Abdelaziz, who is older than Amin and who has left his wife and children in Morocco before having more children in France, so is essentially torn between two different places. As for Amin and Gabrielle, theirs is a story of two lonely people who come together, who experience a moment that may not be expected to last but that they both get something out of.
How did you construct a mise-en-scène that creates such a subtle degree of simplicity?
I tend to work in purity, brevity, and a certain simplicity. And I decided that, for this story in particular, that was how things needed to be told. But simplicity is the hardest thing to find, and I’m not talking about banality or absence of form. It takes work and that is reflected in the film. I tried to identify what was essential and put the actors centre stage by finding the spark that would breathe life into their characters and scenes, creating something authentic, right, true, which is a real intimate commitment on the behalf of the actor. But it's not simple at all, especially when it comes to non-professional actors.
Your film is also a representation of a side to France that could easily be caricatured elsewhere.
Yes, it shows an unfamiliar side to France that we don’t often see on screen, which is often caricatured or stigmatized due to of a lack of knowledge on the subject.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.