Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma • Directors of Year of the Shark
"As soon as we started writing films, we realised that everything took us back to the places of our childhood"
- The French directors took us behind the scenes of their third feature film and shared their passion for genre cinema
Travelling via the NIFFF for the world premiere of their third feature film Year of the Shark [+see also:
interview: Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma
film profile], Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma spoke to us about the France they knew when they were children and teens, and their passion for genre film.
Cineuropa: Following on from Teddy [+see also:
film profile] and its protagonist werewolf, you’ve chosen a killer shark this time round. Where does your passion for genre film come from?
Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma: Genre film has been a part of our lives since childhood. We grew up listening to the Stephen King stories our mother would read to us, and watching Carrie, The Shining, Misery and the Tales from the Crypt series. When we started making films, we put these references aside, to a certain extent. After our first feature film Willy 1er [+see also:
film profile] (ACID), we felt we wanted to return to that world. So we started writing Year of the Shark. But when it came to the screenplay we weren’t too sure which angle to approach it from. At the time in France, the news was full of stories about radicalisation, terror attacks, etc. And it was in that context that we had the idea of writing Teddy (which graced Cannes’ official selection in 2020), a film which seemed to be in step with people’s worries at the time. After Teddy, Covid happened, and then lockdown, so we went back to the screenplay of Year of the Shark. We didn’t change our angle of attack; we felt that it was a bit of a round-about way of talking about Covid and about what was happening in the world, that feeling of confinement and anger. In some respects, our shark was a gateway for talking about the everyday reality we were all experiencing and the pandemic, etc. The monster is something of a pretext for discussing the society we live in.
What are your filmic references (in terms of genre films and others)?
We’ve seen all kinds of films, and that’s why we make films you might describe as hybrid or strange. We like Bruno Dumont just as much as we like Wes Craven and John Carpenter. That said, we try not to base our works on others’, we aim to make our own brand of cinema. It’s incredible when you manage to find your own path. Jaws has often been cited as a reference for our film, but it was never our plan to make a remake of this film, which is a monstrously overwhelming reference. We just wanted to see what kind of a shark film we could make using our own sensibility and style.
In Year of the Shark you depict a version of France which might be described as "working class", which is diametrically opposed to the usual clichés of Parisians. Why?
That’s the France we grew up in, it’s the reality for an overwhelming majority of French people. We often use the phrase "invisible people’s France", as if those people were invisible, but when we were growing up, we saw those people. We were bored with the South-West where we grew up, and we escaped to Paris to study, etc. But as soon as we started writing films, we realised that everything took us back to the places of our childhood. Every time we imagine a fictitious world, we naturally go back to the working-class areas of the South-West, where our friends and our parents come from. What we like to do with monster films is to take the characters we liked as kids in American films and anchor them in the South-West. We like to create a shock effect, of sorts, a confrontation between these two antithetic worlds. This shock is also a brilliant vector for comedy.
How did you go about choosing your actors, especially your non-professional ones?
We looked for our "actors and actresses" in the South-West by way of a casting director who met lots of people. He would then show us videos of people he’d found interesting. The only instruction we’d given him was to meet people who’d never done comedy before. That’s mainly how we found the (mind-blowing) actor who plays the waterpark director. Something quite extraordinary happens when you use non-professional actors, because they’re always very close to real life. We like to put professional and non-professional actors together, a bit like the shark who’s swimming in the sea off the South-West coast. It’s this divide which interests us, these two worlds which collide.
(Translated from French)
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