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CANNES 2022 Competition

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne • Directors of Tori and Lokita

“The fate of migrants, of exiles, that we reserve, is the big question our society faces"

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- CANNES 2022: The Belgian brothers talk to us about their new film that shows the inexorability of the mechanisms of domination that govern human relations

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne • Directors of Tori and Lokita
(© Christine Plenus)

With Tori and Lokita [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
film profile
]
, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne dare to tell a simple and moving story, a story of friendship between two young exiled minors that shows the violence of our relationship with the migration issue and condemns the weakest instead of protecting them. They talk to Cineuropa about, which is like a cry for help, shown in Competition at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: What is the spark that started this project?
Jean-Pierre Dardenne: We had been to reception centres for refugees a few years ago. For some time now, we had been rehashing the topic of the situation of these isolated minors in exile, and we wondered how to make a film with these children. Maybe Young Ahmed [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
film profile
]
, another child, brought us back to them. Ahmed was a child who was alone. We thought: "Hey, let's tell a story of friendship through children." Exile, the fate of migrants, is really the big question our society faces.

Luc Dardenne : I would even say exiles, more than migrants. It's not fair that they move from place to place. They have left their village, their family, everything they know. The rupture is enormous, they are all the more lost and alone. We have also been able to see it, we have read a lot of testimonials, and medical reports. We discovered the hell that these children go through on their journey and the terrible feeling of loneliness that stays with them even when they have “arrived".

How did you think about the heart of this story, beyond highlighting the situation of these young minors?
J-PD: We wanted to make a real story of friendship, in all its beauty.

LD: Yes and we wanted to avoid a fairly classic type of writing in this type of story, which involves betrayal. Their friendship materialises through a musical theme, which accompanies them throughout their journey and unites them. It reflects both their joy of being together and their deep melancholy.

How did you think about the dynamic between the two characters? Tori is constantly on the move, when Lokita is in some kind of resistance.
LD: First, by writing and by choosing our actors. Tori goes everywhere, he has keys, he constantly moves, tries to find Lokita, to go out. He jumps, he runs, weaves. Opposite him, we imagined Lokita as a body that we prevent from moving, that we lock up. We said to ourselves: "She's a prisoner". However, she is part of the action, but she is constrained. And then, she is also a victim of sex trafficking, the ultimate constraint; her body is in the grip of the adults in this regard.

The film is a warning, a denunciation of a situation that has been getting worse for years, that we had already been able to imagine with Rosetta. Is there a responsibility as a filmmaker to take on this topic?
J-PD: It is a topic that has haunted us for a long time, but we could not find from which angle to treat it. "Copying" reality is not our business, it is not what we do. We go through fiction. But what brought us back to this topic was when we learned, even if we knew it without really knowing it, the number of minors who disappear each year in Belgium. We had also read articles on the tortures, even the assassinations perpetrated on young teenagers within the framework of drug trafficking.

Do you have a strong wish to provoke a political reaction?
J-PD: We’re not politicians, but clearly, we hope that the film will make people react. It's a film about friendship, but it's also a film that denounces a form of modern slavery. Inevitably, the ones that suffer are the most vulnerable, without papers, without family... And it's true that if our film, through this international exposure that Cannes offers, if our two little characters, extremely fragile and marginalised… If that could make the decision-makers think, if it could allow us to stop hanging the sword of Damocles over the heads of these young people when they come of age... They learn the language of the country when they arrive, they should be given school opportunities, an apprenticeship! We assume that they come here to then bring their families, that they come here to steal from us. At the end of the day, that's what we mean. However, I think that at the European level, we can find solutions to no longer send minors home at 18.

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(Translated from French)

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