Alanté Kavaïté • Director
by Fabien Lemercier
Lithuanian-born Alanté Kavaïté began her film career in 1992 with a role in Jazz by Raimundas Banionis. She then emigrated to France, where she studied at Avignon’s Ecole Nationale d’Arts Plastiques and at the Beaux-Arts in Paris before working as an editor on documentaries (including two by Pavel Lounguine). In 2001 she co-directed Boris Eltsine, l’enfance d’un chef and a year after made her first short fiction, La Carpe. Now she has made her feature debut, Fissures [+see also:
film profile], a Les Films d’Antoine production selected at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles in November 2006 and part of the Unifrance event A Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, held in London at the end of March this year. The film opens on June 6 in France and on August 17 in the UK.
Cineuropa: Why did you combine such diverse genres as the psychological drama, crime and the fantastic in Fissures?
Alanté Kavaïté: First of all, I chose a theme that is rarely dealt with and a little taboo: bereavement and the daughter-mother relationship. By drawing from experiences in my own life, I realised that what I missed the most about people who had died was their voices. So I came up with the story of a young woman whose mother has died. Through listening to the past she manages to pull herself together. Once we had found this fantastic element of sounds from the past we then had to invent a device to keep the main character in that timeframe and that’s where the crime genre helped me to work in more detail on the theme of guilt. The mother’s unexpected death and the mystery surrounding the murder deeply upset the daughter and make her open her eyes and listen to what is being said around her and be subject to the stares of the villagers. It was also necessary to treat the film with an extremely realist tone so that the audience could believe this supernatural phenomenon. My intention was to break genre codes and not allow myself to use special effects (or to make them invisible) or any sound effects. What we ended up with was quite an odd mixture that doesn’t really follow the codes of any specific genre.
Why did you choose Belgian actress Emilie Dequenne (Best Actress at Cannes 1999) for the main role?
I wrote the film for her. I saw her for the first time in Rosetta and after that I followed all her work, even the minor roles. She always impressed me with the accuracy of her tone of voice. She doesn’t say much in my film so she needed to act with great intensity, in fact not to act, but to “live” the role, by translating many inner emotions simply with her face and her expressions.
A French film by a Lithuanian director – how do you cope with this dual culture?
The film funding system in France is exceptional. It’s extraordinary that there is a place for non-mainstream films. I received a small budget (€2.09m), but the financing was quite quick for a first film thanks to the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC)’s advances on receipts system, which opened many doors for me. Although France is my land of adoption, I feel completely integrated here. But Lithuania surely influences some aspects of my feelings, such as a fondness for forests, nature. Lithuania was also the last country in Europe to be Christianised so pagan beliefs are still quite strong there.
Who are your favourite directors?
The first films that helped me to understand that cinema was more than entertainment (my parents thought of it as a minor art) were those by Buñuel. But I also like Arrabal a lot (especially Long Live Death), the Dardenne brothers and Iñarritu.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.