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CANNES 2024 Un Certain Regard

Louise Courvoisier • Director of Holy Cow

"Even if the social reality is difficult, that doesn't stop us from having lots of places of light and humour too"


- CANNES 2024: The young French filmmaker recounts the genesis of her first feature, a refreshing coming-of-age film that plunges deep into the world of agriculture while avoiding stereotypes

Louise Courvoisier • Director of Holy Cow

Unveiled at the Un Certain Regard programme at the Cannes Film Festival, Holy Cow [+see also:
film review
interview: Louise Courvoisier
film profile
is Louise Courvoisier’s first feature film.

Cineuropa : Was the story born from the character of Totone or from the subject of the transmission of heritage, in this case the making of Comté cheese?
Louise Courvoisier
: The desire was born with the character. I was inspired by the people I grew up with in my village. I wanted to talk about them, because they really touched me and these young people are not often portrayed in films. When I was 15, I left before coming back to live there years later, and I wanted to talk about those who didn't leave: it's a slightly damaged youth, a bit of a hothead. There's a fairly important age when either their life is all mapped out and they take over the family farm, or it's a lot less easy in a region that has its share of economic difficulties. It's the latter that I wanted to talk about: where do they find their strength? How do they cope? Then, I was so keen to anchor the film in the Jura that I drew inspiration from everything that nurtured the region, and the Comté cheese topic came about just like that. But I wanted to make it a real fictional story, not a chronicle of youth.

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Many would have turned the subject into a drama, but Holy Cow mixes people up with a thread of comedy. Why this choice?
I wanted to paint a truly bright portrait, so that we didn't get bogged down in misery, but found strength and light in the story. I was inspired more by an English tone, such as Ken Loach's The Angels' Share [+see also:
film review
interview: Ken Loach
film profile
, where even though the social reality is difficult, it doesn't prevent there being lots of light and humour too.

You also break the stereotypes of female representation of the agricultural world.
The film is centred on a boy, but from a woman's point of view, it's about what goes on behind the scenes of a kind of cultural virility, the beginning of desire, how, when you're built that way, you don't know how to access that and build yourself around your intimacy. For the main female character, I didn't want to fall into the cliché of the anti-feminine, and as soon as I found the actress, it helped me a lot to build the character and find the right balance. It was very important for me to find a way of portraying the femininity of a woman farmer without falling into stereotypes, but at the same time retaining that energy that's a bit raw while being very sensitive.

The whole cast is made up of non-professionals. Why and how did you go about it?
Right from the start of the writing process, I knew they were going to be non-professionals. It was obvious. I really like that because it's very interesting to bring them into the role while remaining true to themselves. And when I was making a film about a region, I needed the landscapes, accents and faces there to tell a story, I needed their physical appearance to tell a story, and not just the story to tell a story about them, but what they naturally embody in the way they move, speak and so on. It took me a year to find the right people and then I worked quite differently with each one, adapting to their needs to find their comfort zone. We rehearsed a lot before the shoot because I wanted them to feel at ease, which is no mean feat when you've never made a film and know nothing about cinema, because they all come from farming backgrounds.

What were your main visual intentions?
I didn't want a naturalistic aesthetic, but a film that was striking in terms of lighting and set design. I also wanted to find a carnal and organic side to the image, and take inspiration from a slightly American, Western aesthetic.

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(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

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