Hafsia Herzi • Director of You Deserve a Lover
“I shot my characters with a lot of love, and I think that it comes through in the film”
- CANNES 2019: Actress Hafsia Herzi tells us about You Deserve a Lover, her very moving feature debut as director, in which she also stars
Hafsia Herzi, the actress first revealed in Abdellatif Kechiche’s The Secret of the Grain [+see also:
interview: Hafsia Herzi
film profile], discusses with Cineuropa the very spontaneous inception of her moving feature debut as director (and lead actress), You Deserve a Lover [+see also:
interview: Hafsia Herzi
film profile], presented in the 58th Critics’ Week in a special screening.
Cineuropa: Could you tell us about the genesis of You Deserve a Lover?
Hafsia Herzi: My feature debut was actually going to be a film called Bonne mère, which is already written. But I was waiting to hear about financing and, for a long time, I’d wanted to go into production with a self-produced, no-budget film. That’s how I woke up, one July morning, with an artistic impulse. I told myself, “You have to shoot right now; now is the time when you have to do this project that you’ve wanted to do for years with no money”, and I went through my script archives to look for the one that would best fit the bill.
How much of the film was actually written? From a simple set up, the film gradually gets more and more complex as it goes on.
A lot of it was written, because you can’t improvise a film. Well, maybe some people manage to do it, but for me, it was very important for the whole project to be well controlled. So after I made this decision overnight, we were on set five days later, but we started with the scenes in which I was alone. There was a five-day shoot in July, another one in August, and another one in September. In between these periods, I could prepare what was coming next, and rework the script depending on the people I had chosen. I love really well-written dialogue — I’m a fan of Marcel Pagnol movies, for example, where characters sometimes talk for fifteen minutes about bread, about anything at all, about life, really…
Your film recalls the cinema of Kechiche in particular: there is this special way of immersing yourself in the lives of those characters that feels comfortable, and that makes us like them even more.
I wasn’t trying to emulate Abdellatif Kechiche — who is inimitable, anyway — but it’s true that he is sort of my role model. He’s a passionate man and director, and I have a lot of admiration for him, and he’s the one who made me want to direct. I shot my characters with a lot of love, and I think that it comes through in the film, because I chose people with a big heart and I think that the soul shows on the image. I feel I should say that Jérémie Laheurte, who plays the “bad guy” here, is a very generous and kind person. The same goes for Anthony Bajon, who is an artistic crush of mine: I discovered him in Cédric Kahn’s The Prayer [+see also:
interview: Cédric Kahn
film profile] [for which he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor in Berlin in 2018, editor’s note] and in that film, even though his role is the opposite of the very gentle character he plays in my film, I could immediately feel his big heart. He has incredible eyes, an incredible presence, he has this “male” side that is very reassuring but also very touching. Regarding the actors I chose who were in front of the camera for the first time, it was a matter of encounters — because I love connecting and sharing with young people who want to work in film and who ask me for advice. In other words, I surrounded myself with people who inspired me, and that can be felt in the way I look at them.
How did it work, being on both sides of the camera? Especially considering that you bare both your body and your soul in the film.
Because the decision to shoot was taken so quickly, I didn’t really have much time to think, I didn’t ask myself any questions. I forged ahead, telling myself that everything rests on your shoulders when you’re directing, anyway. The energy of the film is the director. I wasn’t allowed to fail, I had to forge ahead, so I let myself go without thinking too much.
Could you tell us a bit more about your other project, Bonne mère, which was initially going to be your feature debut as director?
My production company is called Les Films de la bonne mère in reference to Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, a stunning monument overlooking the city. The film tells the story of a mother in her fifties who lives in the northern districts of Marseille. She’s a cleaning lady, she takes care of an elderly woman, and she has three children, including a son who’s in prison. The film follows her path until the son’s trial. It will be the portrait of a strong, dignified, honest woman who is trying to pull through and to stay strong for her children. I hope that You Deserve a Lover will help me find the rest of the money I need to make this film which I’m hoping to shoot very soon, maybe in September.
(Translated from French)
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