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Belgium / France

Solange Cicurel • Director of Isn’t She Lovely?

"Comedy comes from truth"

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- We talked to Belgian filmmaker Solange Cicurel, whose family comedy Isn’t She Lovely?, her second feature, is coming out this July

Solange Cicurel  • Director of Isn’t She Lovely?

We talked to Belgian filmmaker Solange Cicurel, winner of the Magritte award for the Best Feature Debut in 2017 for Don't Tell Her [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, whose second feature Isn’t She Lovely? [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Solange Cicurel
film profile
]
, a family comedy, is coming out in July, released on more than 600 screens in the heart of summer by UGC Distribution.

Cineuropa: What was the genesis of this project?
Solange Cicurel:
The desire to make Isn’t She Lovely? came to me as I was thinking about the teenage crisis that my daughter will probably go through when she is older. I asked myself what kind of mother I will be, if I will be wonderful or not. And because I like comedies, I thought it would be a lot funnier if I weren’t… or if my alter ego wasn’t! This is a film that aims to take the blame away from parents, a film that, most importantly, knows there is no secret recipe to follow to be a good parent. It’s a film about education, and about transmission too. When we’re young, we often swear that we’ll never turn out like our parents, but once we’re adults we hear ourselves repeat the same words we heard as kids, and we think: “This isn’t possible, I can’t be turning into my mother!”

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Would you describe it as a real intergenerational comedy?
Yes, that’s it, it’s a portrait of three generations interacting with each other, each one has its proper place, but each also has lessons to learn from the experience of others. It’s a family film more than it is a film of women, because the role of the father is important too, especially as a mediator, the messenger between the two parties that are at war.

It is also a comedy of paradoxes
Yes, that was what we were trying to do. It’s the antagonisms, particularly between different generations, and different education methods, which make the comedy erupt. When the benevolent mother becomes monstrous. Emma eventually realises that she can be different women at the same time, she is simultaneously the mother, the lover, and the teenager.

She relives her own teenage crisis when her daughter goes through her own crisis, but most all, she finds herself in the process. Amongst other things, she realises that she does not have to apply the artificial principles of benevolence which bore and annoy her more than anything else. She has to find herself again, she has to understand that she’s allowed to sometimes feel like giving up on everything, that she can have “bad” thoughts towards her daughter when the latter gets on her nerves, that this is all natural. She’s a complex woman, just as all parents ultimately are in their relationship to their children.

How did you cast your lead actresses?
I picked Elsa Zylberstein simply because she is one of the best actresses I know. I saw her at the theatre, I saw her at the cinema, and she’s always impressed me. We both wanted to make a film that would be true. Beyond comedy, even beyond drama, most of all we wanted the situations in the film to be as real as possible, we wanted everyone to see their own reality in them, which of course adds to the comedy. On top of that, she has an exceptional gift for improvisation.

For the role of the daughter, I needed a young actress who could hold her own, of course. I crossed paths with Ioni Matos in the parking lot even before her audition, and as soon as I saw her, I knew it would have to be her. There was something strong yet very sensitive about her, even though she was just 11-and-a-half years old at the time.

Isn’t it a daring bet to make a family comedy, a feel-good movie, in French-speaking Belgium?
Well there aren’t many, that’s for sure! But I adore comedies, especially romantic comedies, so it is natural for me to write something feel-good. Before I was a filmmaker, I was an immigration lawyer and a lawyer for people with mental illnesses. I have seen so much misery, which is probably what makes me want to make people smile. And even if doing comedy here kind of gets you classified as a UFO, I will continue on that path.

Comedy is a very demanding genre, what is its biggest challenge for you?
The biggest challenge, for me, is to be as truthful as possible. I don’t write comedy sketches, I’m not doing vaudeville. Being truthful allows viewers to be touched or involved, but most of all it allows them to laugh at themselves. And I think that comedy comes from that truth.

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(Translated from French)

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