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Laurent Micheli • Director of Lola

“Let minorities re-appropriate their stories”


- We met up with Laurent Micheli to talk about his latest film, Lola vers la mer, shown this week at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival

Laurent Micheli  • Director of Lola

Laurent Micheli talks to us about his new film, Lola [+see also:
film review
interview: Laurent Micheli
film profile
, the portrait of an 18-year-old transgender woman who must make peace with the past and with her father before she can move forward. The film was presented this week at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival.

Cineuropa: Where did the desire to make this film come from?
Laurent Micheli:
It’s a double desire. I wanted to talk about the relationship to the father, to return to my memories, to explore my troubles as a teenager. I also wanted to talk about trans identity. Being gay, I am very sensible to all LGBT questions, and the trans question seems to me as important as it is current. I also see in this a beautiful way to talk about minorities in general.

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Who is Lola, the film’s heroine?
I tried to imagine the most modern and contemporary character possible. I wanted her to personally have absolutely no problems with being transgender, and for the only issues around her identity to come from society. I wanted her to have the energy of a hero, ready to make everything explode, determined not to be a victim. She’s looking for her place in the world, a world that isn’t completely ready to accept people such as herself.

But I didn’t want Lola to be caricatural in her femininity, I was imagining a more fluid kind of femininity. Even if Lola considers herself to be a trans girl, therefore in a binary structure, I wanted to blur all the boundaries of gender as we conceive of them.

Facing the character of Lola, the character of her father needed to generate empathy. How did you imagine him?
He was the most complicated character to write, for me. At the beginning, I had imagined an archetype, and I had to deconstruct the character and his cliches as I was writing. Maybe I was deconstructing my own ideas of masculinity and fatherhood!

Of course, I didn’t want a character who would be too manichean. I needed to find the hardness, the sense of being closed-off, but also to show his fragility in this situation, so that the viewer could share in his questioning.

As a parent, you put a crazy amount of pressure on yourself. You want to succeed at everything, do better than your own parents. You start with expectations and goals. And sometimes, your own child prevents your from achieving those goals, from being the father you’ve always dreamt of being. This generates pain, naturally.

The film offers, to Lola and her father, a travel both through space and through time…
I really wanted them to question their past, and to re-appropriate it, especially the character of Lola. In the end, that is almost her main fight, to make peace with her past and the child she used to be.

The problem at play here is that Lola and her father did not live the same past, or at least, they do not have the same memories of it. This is what creates conflict, they do not have the same reading of their history. By confronting each other, they can rewrite a new history, and create a new basis for their relationship.

The different phases of the road movie also allow to create a dialogue, to force a closeness and intimacy?
I wanted to provoke a conversation between these two characters who have years of things left unsaid behind them. It’s a beautiful narrative device for creating dialogue. I wanted to show the violence of their relation.

It’s a violence that trans people know, every day. Yes, our society is progressive. And yet, we’re witnessing a real upsurge in homophobic and transphobic attacks. It’s a systemic violence, a societal violence, and the prism of the family, itself a system, allows to write and stage this violence in a narrative microcosm.

To play the role of this minority that is essentially absent from our screens, you needed an actress who herself belongs to that minority?
In our case, this required a certain courage, because Mya had never acted before. As a director, I’m not going to pretend that it never made me anxious! But it was a bet I wanted to take, with Mya. That was our pact. Mya, she was my strongest option.

It’s a big question, the cause of big debates, and I personally haven’t finished answering it. But I needed to tell this story my way, with this actress. Of course, this choice is militant. It aims to let minorities re-appropriate the stories that belong to them. It doesn’t have to be the rule everywhere and forever, but it is important today that trans people, and racialised people, get to have leading roles in cinema.

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(Translated from French)

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