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BERLINALE 2024 Generation

Soleen Yusef • Réalisatrice de Winners

“Les enfants devraient pouvoir parler dans leur propre langage et raconter leurs propres histoires”

par 

- BERLINALE 2024 : Dans ce film pour enfants, la scénariste et réalisatrice germano-kurde s'intéresse au pouvoir unificateur du football

Soleen Yusef • Réalisatrice de Winners
(© Leo Lokai)

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

German-Kurdish writer-director Soleen Yusef presented her children’s feature Winners [+lire aussi :
interview : Soleen Yusef
fiche film
]
at this year's Berlinale. The drama, about a Kurdish girl fleeing Syria with her family to find a safe new home in Germany, was the opening film of the Generation section. We spoke to the director about her inspiration for the story and her young protagonists.

Cineuropa: Why did you choose football as your main motif?
Soleen Yusef:
Because I played it myself. The film is the story of my teacher and me. To make it more accessible to children, I translated it into the present day. By speaking their language, we can tell a more authentic story about life today. For me back then, as for my main character, football was a gateway to arriving in Germany, finding friends and getting a spot on the team. Besides, football is a metaphor for life: you fight, and you learn not to give up. And you realise that you can win, even if you are one of society's losers.

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Why was it important for you to make this film?
The movie is a tribute to my teacher. It is also a tribute to the girls who play the main role in the film, to school, to my parents and to my siblings. It reminds me of my own time arriving in a foreign country and how I realised that Germany would become my new home.

How did you find the children for the movie?
We worked on it for a long time, about a year and a half. We looked for them via a large online audition. But we also made an effort to reach kids who wouldn't easily come into contact with the world of film. That's why we went to sports clubs, for example. We also did a lot of online activities that young people do, too.

There were a lot of applicants. We tried out different combinations and finally put together our ensemble cast. We tried to give all of the children a chance. In some cases, I changed the characters in line with real people who I thought were great, and incorporated their backgrounds. It was important to me that we would be as authentic as possible. The children had to be able to speak their own language and tell their own stories. None of them had any acting experience; they were given acting training and football training. It was a big challenge, but it was fun.

What did you want to express with the flashbacks?
I wanted to show that there was a world in which she felt good. She is a child who doesn't want to flee, just like her parents, because they actually love their homeland but are forced to run away. Her home is a beautiful place, with a community, a house and a garden. Even if it doesn't look like Germany, it was a place of safety for the family, and they were torn away from it. I didn't want any clichéd images. Boys and girls often play football together on the street; there is no such separation between the sexes, just like there isn't any at home. I also wanted to avoid the common kinds of images of war zones. There is life there, and there is family and love. It's not all just piles of rubble; it's a place of longing for the main character.

What was important for you when designing the flashbacks?
The sun shines differently there: it's bright and warm. Compared to Berlin, it's brighter. I wanted to show the contrast. The pictures capture the colours that can actually be seen on location. We captured them in such a way that it becomes clear that their home is a place of longing, a place of beautiful memories. The flashbacks were meant to look like a photo album. They are so big in her head and in her heart that these images are just naturally embellished, as they are always told from her perspective.

Do you have any particular children’s or youth films that you would describe as inspirations?
Actually, this film is somehow a gift to my inner child. I would have loved to have seen a movie like this when I first came to Germany. I never saw myself in the films. My role models are mainly US flicks that make an effort to perceive children in a completely different way and tell the story at their eye level. The problems of young people are taken seriously, and their emotional worlds are shown in all their complexity. Examples include Stand by Me, Dead Poets Society and The Breakfast Club. There are also many great sports films from the USA that have inspired me.

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