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France / Switzerland

Christophe Blanc • Director of Just Kids

"It's a kind of melodramatic teen movie"


- Christophe Blanc tells us about his film Just Kids, centred on siblings in the grips of grief and freedom, released in French cinemas today

Christophe Blanc  • Director of Just Kids

Following An Outgoing Woman (2000) and White As Snow [+see also:
film profile
(2010), Christophe Blanc returns with Just Kids [+see also:
film review
interview: Christophe Blanc
film profile
, a psychologically accurate and formally inventive exploration of the journey of siblings, grieving and left to their own devices. Handled by Blue Monday Productions, the feature is released in France today via Rezo Films.

Cineuropa: What attracted you to this story of siblings grieving and left to their own devices?
Christophe Blanc:
It’s a rather personal story. I’d wanted to make a film about kids who find themselves left to their own devices following the death of their parents for a long time. I went through something that was quite similar and it took me some time to find the strength and the energy to do it, and most of all to find the right angle that would allow me to be involved all the while maintaining a certain distance so that I wouldn’t trap myself in my emotions. What is purely fictional is the brother, because I don’t have one. I had the idea of dividing myself into two characters and to tell the story of a ten-year-old child who encounters grief, and a teenager of 18 or 19 years old who cannot accept the reality of his father’s passing. Then was added to that the idea of a very young adult who finds himself responsible for a child, which isn’t exactly what happened to me, even though I had my sister who was a lot younger than me. I intertwined rather closely the personal and the real with the purely fictional.

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The film’s centre of gravity shifts progressively from one brother to the other, the youngest one almost becoming the lead character.
I had this desire to flip the rapport. At the beginning of the film, the eldest, Jack, is very practical, he wants to understand his history and is quite proactive about that, while the young Mathis stays in the background, kind of stunned. There is a moment of shift, which is the dream in the film; it brings Jack towards a more phantasmagoric universe, while the youngest brother emancipates himself through photography. I thought it would be interesting to show that the eldest, who is supposed to lead the way and dominate all problems, lets himself be submerged, while the youngest, who is supposed to be taken care of, finds an exit all by himself, by the strength of his curiosity and of the life that he is creating for himself.

Why did you insert an element of the thriller into the film?
There is indeed a form of investigation, a search by the eldest about his father. This wasn’t necessarily out of a concern for the efficiency of the storytelling, but rather to give a sense of this obsession. Without spoiling the film, Jack will go to the end of this investigation and the answers it will bring him will never be satisfying: there is always a lack, a frustration, and that’s why he slips little by little into a world of fantasy. In reality, children are not looking for the same thing. Jack, the eldest, is turned towards the past, towards this search for what happened, while the youngest invests himself without fully knowing why into a much more creative and imaginary world, and the sister’s approach is the complete opposite: she turns her back on the past, she doesn’t want to hear about it anymore. I follow the tree paths of these siblings: faced with the same event, they react in diametrically different ways.

The topic of grief also concerns the definition of what constitutes a family.
The fact that these children find themselves without adults, it’s like an explosion within the family at large. I wanted to tell the story of the siblings, but also the difficult relationships with a family where the adults can be defective all the while being present, like the uncle for example. I also wanted to make a kind of melodramatic teen movie, but not of the kind we usually see, because these children do not have a particular fascination for death, they’re not in a violent rapport with the world: tragedy hits them like a truck and they have no choice but to face that.

The film offers a great variety of settings and situations.
With this topic, I could have made a very raw film in a realist mode, with a handheld camera. But I didn’t want to make a psychological film, even though there is a mental part to it. I didn’t want a form that would be too close to the ground, on the contrary it needed to be ample all the while being carefully worked out, because it had to respond to the various mental states one can have. It’s true that the characters are traversed by various psychological states, but they also have energy, vitality and the hunger of youth, and I wanted that to be translated in the film’s form.

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(Translated from French)

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