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VENICE 2020 Orizzonti

Giovanni Aloi • Director of The Third War

“This is not a Paris movie where people kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower, it’s Paris in war uniform”

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- VENICE 2020: We asked Giovanni Aloi about his Orizzonti entry The Third War, a film depicting Paris as a city frequented by fully armed soldiers ready for the real thing

Giovanni Aloi • Director of The Third War
(© La Biennale di Venezia/Foto ASAC/Giorgio Zucchiatti)

Playing in this years’ Orizzonti competition at the Venice Film Festival, The Third War [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Giovanni Aloi
film profile
]
by Italian-born, Paris-based director Giovanni Aloi offers a different take on his home city, frequented by fully armed soldiers, ready for the real thing.

Cineuropa: What gave you the idea to tell the story of these soldiers, fighting terrorism among civilians in the middle of Paris?
Giovanni Aloi: I live in Paris, and in 2015 I’d been away and returned the day after the Bataclan attacks. The city was changed — there were very few people on the streets, the underground was almost empty, Montparnasse felt like a ghost town. In short, this noisy city looked more or less post-apocalyptic. Then I saw these uniformed people patrolling the streets, very young and with heavy guns, just waiting for something to happen. I started observing them and felt a story in it. I started to do some research, and here we are.

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Your main character, the young Leo, tells his mother he can’t discuss his work. How did you get the information you needed?
I interviewed those who had left the army and were able to talk about their experiences. Then my co-writer Dominique Baumard and I brought their experiences into the story. One authentic example is the character played by Leïla Bekhti — Coline, the sergeant — and the misogyny she encounters in this environment heavy in testosterone. What we didn’t know at the time was that Coline would also be pregnant, because Leïla herself got pregnant. We found out one month before we started shooting. But we put it into the story, which became more interesting I think.

These former soldiers you interviewed, what do they do after leaving the service?
Well, one of them worked with us on the set, helping the actors to move and handle their guns in the proper way, even correcting them in the language they used — there’s a lot of slang in the way they talk, and during my interviews, I listened closely in order to get the authentic speech into the film. This man has gone on to other film productions since, I think as an assistant producer. The cinema set is close to the army, you know — you need to be very precise.

How did you go about getting the authorisation to shoot in the streets with these uniformed and armed characters?
Pre-production was very tough. To film some of these situations right in the middle of the city, a city traumatised by shootings at that, was simply not allowed. There were many changes and negotiations along the way with the authorities in charge. We couldn’t use the real military base of course, but we do use an old one that is now an orphan’s home. I struggled a lot to get the images I wanted. This is not a Paris movie where people kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower, it’s Paris in war uniform, science fiction-like but very real.

How would you explain the title? What, for you, is the third war?
In my opinion, after the second world war, we are still in a war — a long, continuous war. There’s always a war going on, and this is an episode of this war, right in Paris. While I love my title, it’s still a delicate question when I get it and will have to think again about it.

Have you yourself done any military service?
No. My parents told me “You have to study, otherwise you will have to be in the army!” and I was very scared to have to go there. I was a very bad student, had to repeat a year even, but I managed. And these days, finally, my parents are proud of me. Right now they are in a small fishing village in Liguria, close to Genoa, and they are telling everyone there about their famous son — il regista — who is in Venice. I visited them last week and everyone cheered me on. Very cool.

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