Christian Dior may no longer be alive, but there’s no doubt that his spirit lives on in the fashion community. The unmatched talent and intense pressure of his company have led it to become a pillar in the industry, most aptly and vividly captured in Frederic Tcheng’s documentary “Dior and I.” Though time was limited in following the lives of designers and seamstresses, the speedy proceedings of Dior ultimately made for quite an experience — and quite a film.
What was your biggest challenge in completing this project? Gaining the trust of our subjects – obviously Dior designer Raf Simons, but also the seamstresses of the atelier, was a challenge because of the time constraint. Usually on a documentary, you spend months courting the subjects, until they let down their guard and become comfortable with the camera. That’s how you capture the real beautiful moments. But Dior announced Raf Simons’ appointment only two months before his first show. We had no warm-up time at all. But in the end, as it is often the case, this disadvantage turned into an asset. The situation was intensified, both for us and for our subjects. There was electricity in the air that I think really comes across in the film.
What do you have in the works? I’m writing a fiction script. The initial idea was to write a gay adaptation of Arabian Nights, set in the 20th century. I am interested in exploring what’s left of the spirit of the gay liberation movement.
What camera did you shoot on? We shot with the Canon C300, which was the best at the time in terms of documentary shooting. And it looks like an old-fashioned Bolex.
Did you go to film school? If so, which one? I went to Columbia University Film School. I had a great experience there. I met many filmmakers who are my friends now (like Jennifer Grausman who has a film in TIFF this year). Although we didn’t study documentary filmmaking per se, we were taught the fundamentals of storytelling, which applies to non-fiction just as well as fiction.
What films have inspired you? Frederick Wiseman’s films were a big inspiration for this project. He is the master of exploring institutions. I also looked at the Maysles brothers’ documentaries, for the way they treat character and emotion. And strangely enough, Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” was also important, thematically, in the way we approached the ghost of Christian Dior.
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