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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2019 New Directors

Fyzal Boulifa • Director of Lynn + Lucy

“Lynn's tragedy is that she finds self-esteem and an identity in the worst possible place”


- British filmmaker Fyzal Boulifa impresses with his first feature, Lynn + Lucy, with which he is competing in the New Directors section of San Sebastián

Fyzal Boulifa • Director of Lynn + Lucy
(© Jorge Fuembuena / SSIFF)

After a fruitful career helming short films, Fyzal Boulifa has written and directed Lynn + Lucy [+see also:
film review
interview: Fyzal Boulifa
film profile
, a story about friendship, motherhood and loss, all propped up by some excellent performances by Roxanne Scrimshaw and Nichola Burley. Cineuropa met him at the 67th San Sebastián Film Festival, where he is competing with the movie in the New Directors section.

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Cineuropa: This is your first feature after making several short films; how was the process of changing from one to the other?
Fyzal Boulifa:
I spent many years doing short films, and for me, it was like learning everything from scratch. Even writing the script was very different. The hardest thing was probably to keep working with the actors over the course of these transformations. These two characters, Lynn and Lucy, both change a great deal, and I was very conscious of the work that it would take with the actors during the entirety of the feature in order to express all of these changes.

Finding the right actresses to play Lynn and Lucy was crucial before the start of shooting. How did you find them?
We were looking at both actors and non-professionals, and I very quickly felt that it was going to have to be a non-professional. We met Roxanne first: she was immediately very interested. There is something about her that feels ordinary, but there's also something tender and childish, and something very tough. And I thought that would be very interesting for Lynn. And then we started searching for Lucy: we searched for a long time for a non-professional actress. It was very hard because she is such an extreme character. We couldn’t find a non-professional who had the necessary control to do these things, so we started looking for professionals. Most professionals, the moment we put them with Roxanne, felt mannered and false. And then we met Nichola, and she is a professional actress but she was street-cast when she was a teenager. She is also from a working-class background. Acting is something that just happened to her. This is not a coincidence, the fact that in both cases, they didn’t go to acting classes and they didn't grow up dreaming of being an actress. What Roxanne was going through, Nichola had been through many years before, which is very nice on set.

Lies and their consequences seem to be one of the major topics broached in the film – would you agree?
I hadn’t thought about it like that, but I do think that's correct. The way I think about it is more related to the need to identify, and for me, Lynn's tragedy is that she finds self-esteem and an identity in the worst possible place. When I was making the film, I was thinking about this idea that we find our identities by creating a kind of “other”. And Lynn finds her self-esteem, her sense of goodness, by committing to the idea that Lucy is bad.

How did you manage to capture so much information about the characters through the close-ups you use during the film?
It wasn't easy for the actors, because the camera in the movie is very fixed, and it was very close to them. I think the human face is endlessly fascinating, so I'm not looking for an exact “look” when I'm on set. It’s in the editing room that you find that. What I do on set is to give the actors a bit of freedom. They don't know exactly what I want, but I try to give them some space to implicate themselves.

You show a dark, sad reality, but sometimes a brighter and more artificial dimension seeps into the film through television, social networks and so on. What was your intention with this?
The media in the film is very important because I think it really defines Lynn's world. In creating Lynn's trajectory, for me, the real question was: what is it about Lynn's culture and society that brings out the worst in her, in a way? And media is a huge part of this. England is a very media-influenced country, and I think there is also a kind of spiritual problem in the country that has to do with emptiness – and the media makes me feel it even more acutely, somehow. The contrast between real people’s lives and this bright, aggressive, mass pop culture is a big clue as to why Lynn behaves the way she does.

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