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Anouk Fortunier • Director of My Dad Is a Sausage

"I really didn’t want to make a cute film"


- The Belgian director tells us about her feature debut, a subtle and relevant film for the whole family, about the freedom to reinvent oneself, and to better find one’s place in the world

Anouk Fortunier • Director of My Dad Is a Sausage
(© Kris Dewitte)

We talked to Anouk Fortunier about her feature debut, My Dad Is a Sausage [+see also:
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interview: Anouk Fortunier
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, a subtle and relevant film about families, the freedom to reinvent oneself, and to better find one’s place in the world, released by Paradiso in Belgian cinemas on Wednesday.

Cineuropa: How did you land on this project, whose script, adapted from a children’s book, was written by Jean-Claude Van Rijckeghem?
Anouk Fortunier:
My first short film participated in a Festival in Belgium and Jean-Claude was part of the jury. When he saw that the themes in my film were similar to those in his film, he contacted me to suggest I direct My Dad Is a Sausage. First of all, I laughed when I read the title, then I wondered if it was going to be a low-brow comedy a little far away from my universe, and finally I let myself get carried away. I saw in it the story of a slightly neurotic family, full of love even if that love is clumsy, and I saw what the film could become. I felt that we could go beyond this sausage costume, that it could be more than a joke, we would follow the journey of a man searching himself who recovers a little bit of hope and a hint of madness thanks to his daughter. We needed to find a balance between comedy and emotion. 

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How did you approach the challenge of addressing a family audience?
In short, I wanted the story to be as obvious as possible. I wanted it to seem normal that the father would end up wearing a sausage costume. We tend to overprotect children, even in fiction, rather than talk to them frankly. When I was little, on Dutch television, there were absurd things that were extremely creative and even politically engaged. I really didn’t want to make a cute film. Well, I still had to cut a few things, but I wanted to take children seriously. To get them out of the conditioning we often shut them in. I really tried to put myself in the shoes of the protagonist, Zoé, to see things through her eyes. She is still able to feel things that adults can no longer feel. She can see that they are all stuck in a routine that suffocates them. 

Her parents and her siblings seem stuck in costumes that have been imposed on them, and that they don’t know how to get out of. They’re just trying to perform the roles they’ve been given.
That’s exactly it, they’re wearing costumes that are too small for them, despite themselves. In teenagers, there are still things that are too big, but in adults less so. Zoé is at a stage where she doesn’t try to please others, she is still pretty close to who she really is. But because her loved ones aren’t, she is missing something that would help her fully accept herself. Thanks to her father, to his courage, she sees a chance to find and to give inspiration.

Certain sequences are animated, how did you create them?
When I saw the young actress who plays Zoé during the casting process, I immediately felt that she had a very rich interior world. Together with the screenwriter, we wondered how we could make that world appear in the film, and we decided to turn to animated sequences, even though they are always a risk because you can never be sure that they will perfectly fit with the rest of the film. We met Pascale Pettersson, an illustrator who works in stop motion animation, which is a wonderful technique, but a very complex one! We wanted those sequences to look a bit handmade, kind of artisanal. It is both poetic, and at the same time a bit rumpled. 

What are some of your other projects?
I am working on a short film, which I’ll be able to shoot thanks to the Wildcard from the VAF which I got for my previous film, and which I’ll shoot in Morocco. Then I’m also writing an animated series. I would like to continue to alternate between adult and family audiences, and to combine animation and fiction.

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(Translated from French)

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