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ROTTERDAM 2019 Big Screen Competition

Anke Blondé • Director of The Best of Dorien B.

"Dorien struggles to re-invent herself and to take back control of her own dreams"

by 

- We met up with Belgian director Anke Blondé, who is presenting her debut feature, The Best of Dorien B., at Rotterdam Film Festival

Anke Blondé • Director of The Best of Dorien B.
(© Kris Dewitte / A Private View)

After getting a degree in filmmaking, Anke Blondé worked as a casting director for many years, most notably with Felix Van Groeningen, before making her first short film, Dura Lex, which went on to do the rounds at a number of film festivals. Her first feature, The Best of Dorien B. [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anke Blondé
film profile
]
, is being presented in world premiere at Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR).

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Cineuropa: Tell us about your heroine, Dorien.
Anke Blondé : She is an anti-hero. She is funny and discreet at the same time, I wanted to create a character that viewers would want to be friends with. I am not Dorien, and Dorien is not me. But she does encapsulate aspects of many women I know.

At first, she seems a little detached from what happens to her, anaesthetised by her daily life...
Before she is finally able to realise that the path she has taken has been decided for her, and that sometimes you need to go in a new direction and become responsible for your own dreams. I think everyone reaches a crossroads at a certain point in life. A moment when you take a look back and ask yourself what you really want. A moment that maybe even leads you to reinvent yourself if you're not happy with who you are. It's something that I experienced myself when I became a mother. It seemed almost too comfortable for me, my casting director job. And deep down, I knew that I wanted to direct. At the same time, my parents decided to separate. I lost my footing all of a sudden and ended up asking myself, “Who am I?” It was either a very early mid-life crisis or a very late crisis of adolescence! Dorien has an epiphany, she has to change something about her life: her relationship, her life as a mother, her career...

The film has a rather tragi-comic tone to it, sometimes even ironic ...
I wanted to avoid the story becoming one-dimensional, and people saying: “Oh here we go, another film about depression...” I wanted to play on oppositions, to find a balance. When it came to the sets, for example, I wanted Dorien to be trapped among the trees, in a sort of degenerate fairy tale house, while in terms of set design, we opted for lighter, pastel colours. We also needed to cast the right actress, someone who could offer the right balance between drama and humour, and I'm very happy with Kim Snauwaert’s performance. Happiness is measured by misfortune, and humour and drama feed off each other. 

You hint that Dorien is suffering from cancer without really talking about it.
I did not want to make a film about cancer, but I wanted Dorien to be confronted with something dramatic. It's also a test linked to her femininity and one that leads her to asks herself certain questions. And ultimately, the disease ends up making her incredibly strong and courageous. 

Dorien is a vet, why that job in particular?
It's was my co-writer's idea, and I like it a lot. I learned a lot, I spent a few days with veterinarians. It's almost like a psychiatrist's office. People come to talk about their animals, when in fact, they end up talking about themselves! It's really very interesting to observe human behaviour while sitting in a veterinary practice... 

People are going to ask you whether this is a women’s film...
When I started this project eight years ago, I certainly wasn't thinking: “I'm going to make a film for women!” I think the identity crisis tackled in the film affects both men and women, but I would say that women are definitely more likely to experience this sort of internal conflict: how do you reconcile your professional life with your role as a mother? These concerns are talked about more frequently these days, but there is still a long way to go before power is distributed evenly, especially in the family environment.

Although most women of my generation have always heard that they can do whatever they want, that's never really been the case. When we have children, we are not free to make certain professional choices, especially as women. In fact, I wanted parents to be present in the story, because our identity depends so much on the way we are brought up. But that’s not to say we can’t choose our own path, even if it is hard to fight against the way we are wired as children!

(Translated from French)

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