Romane Gueret and Lise Akoka • Directors of The Worst Ones
"We mostly wanted to talk about the meeting of these two very different worlds"
- CANNES 2022: The filmmaking duo explain their intentions for their first feature film which homes in on children, and their work with young people
The Worst Ones [+see also:
interview: Romane Gueret and Lise Akoka
film profile], the debut feature film by French directors Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret, has been unveiled in the Un Certain Regard section of the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea for shooting a film within your film, using non-professional actors?
Romane Gueret: Lise and I met seven years ago at a film audition. Lise was a casting director and I was an intern. We went to find children in the mining region of the North and it gave us the idea to make a short film questioning the practice of casting calls. That short film, Chasse royale, was later selected for the Directors’ Fortnight. We were thrilled to be exploring a subject we knew about and fairly soon afterwards we decided to tackle the subject of filmmaking, to tell the story of a film shoot.
Your young protagonists come from tricky neighbourhoods and the film within your film is insistent on this aspect. Why were you so sensitive to this?
Lise Akoka: We’d carried out huge numbers of casting calls and children’s coaching sessions for films, often travelling to working class areas to find our actors. We were already questioning how responsible it was to go looking for children who hadn’t asked us to, who didn’t have any real desire to become actors and who are growing up in worlds very far removed from the film universe. Where do you draw the line? We also questioned the recurring fascination in arthouse cinema for kids hailing from difficult areas, wondering where it came from, and the idea of lending a voice to these children from our position as adults coming from a more privileged big city background. It wasn’t simply about telling their story while claiming to offer an exhaustive account of what they are and what they feel, it was first and foremost about the meeting between these two very different worlds (in terms of age, because we’re talking about adults and children, and social provenance): asking ourselves whether a real meeting was even possible, and what this involved.
How did you strike a balance between the film shoot and the children’s young lives off-set, first and foremost in terms of how their neighbourhood perceives their new status?
RG: By spending a considerable amount of time on the screenplay. We didn’t just want to tell a story about a film shoot. What interested us the most was making a film all about children and how they experience emotions. There are several adult characters in the movie, but they’re in the background. So it primarily focuses on children, what they experience during the shoot and outside of the shoot (how this affects their lives in their neighbourhood, within their families, with their friends, the matter of their reputation in a small neighbourhood), and on those few shooting scenes which allowed us to explore something specific about their mise en abyme and their relationships. But it also involved a huge amount of editing, and the film was practically rewritten at that point.
You’re careful to avoid oversimplification when it comes to how we look at these children brought onto a film set. For some people, it’s an attack on the neighbourhood’s image, others see it as a chance for them.
LA: We didn’t want to offer entirely optimistic nor totally pessimistic answers to this question, instead we wanted to ask ourselves how film might impact each of these children. Because if there’s no such thing as a typical child, for some, it will change their lives while others might find it leads to a profession or a vocation. The scene featuring the area’s youth workers shows a divergence of interests, but we wanted to bring all these points of view together. Art doesn’t look for the same things as the social world, but these two aspects have a value and must co-exist.
RG: We hope it will broaden horizons, even if it’s only a small offering at a very specific moment in a lifetime. But at least it’s lucky enough to exist.
(Translated from French)
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