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TORONTO '06 DISCOVERY INTERVIEW: Jean-Pascal Hattu: "The success of a filmmaker is the success of hi

By Indiewire | Indiewire September 11, 2006 at 5:12AM

Every day through the end of the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, indieWIRE will be publishing interviews with filmmakers in the Discovery section of the festival, which TIFF describes as "provocative feature films by new and emerging directors."
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Every day through the end of the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, indieWIRE will be publishing interviews with filmmakers in the Discovery section of the festival, which TIFF describes as "provocative feature films by new and emerging directors."

Nineteen filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions. Director Jean-Pascal Hattu is at Toronto with his feature film, "7 Years," a story centered on a love triangle between a woman, her incarcrated husband and a prison guard.

How old are you? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I am 43 years old. I born in Paris, where I grew up and I still live now.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

I was a journalist until 1992. It is my love for actors and my wish to narrate stories, which led me to become a filmmaker. I saw my first Igmar Bergman film when I was 17 years old. I was fascinated by the way he filmed actors faces and expressions. I discovered that the camera could show the soul and catch so many hidden feelings. When Andre Techine proposed me to become one of his assistants on "Wild Reeds", I decided to drop my journalist work. I knew it would be the chance for me to learn cinema and to observe actors. It has been my first real approach of actors. I quickly perceived I would pass my life trying to make films.

Do you have any other creative outlets??

Reading books, listening to music. I am not a highly cultured man. Little by little, I discover books, music and painters in terms of people I meet. If I like or love somebody, I'll have the desire to discover the book the one reads or the music the one listen to.

Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking?

I never learned cinema at a school. My best school was: going to the cinema halls and seeing films. The very important thing for me has been to go and see films of a same director. One week, one director - if the films were not on screen I tried to have the tapes.

What are your goals for the Toronto International Film Festival?

I go to the Toronto International Film Festival to show my film and listen to how people will feel it. I also go there to meet other filmmakers and see their films.

How/where did the initial idea for your film come from?

The first kind of "illumination" I had was when I went to meet a friend in jail. When I sat in the visitor room and saw him coming in, I perceived that the only outside contacts would be put to the test in this two square meters room. When he told me that his wife came two times a week to visit him, I could not understand how the intimacy of this couple could exist. I saw the wardens passing each thirty seconds at the door, keeping an eye on the room.

When I met his wife outside she told me how the intimacy could exist between them: a stolen glance, the smell of sweat, of few clothes, a hand they could hold during an hour.

The second time, a few years later, I made a documentary for the French television about a young warden women whose job was the first. She was very surprised to see that the old wardens didn't try to speak with the prisoners. When I filmed this young girl - I felt that I had the beginning of a story.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?

When I finished the writing with Gilles Tauraud, my producer sent the script to French Television. The most difficult thing for me had been to wait for their answers and hear that my film didn't interest them. In France nowadays if you don't have any French television on the project, it's quite impossible to make a feature. Nevertheless, my producer and I made up our minds to try to do the film without them. We were just waiting for somebody who could believe in the project and could also say to me: "Make the film with the actors you want!"

How did you finance the film?

When Pyramide Distribution read the script, they decided to take the risk. My meeting with Fabienne Vonier and Eric Lages has been very interesting. They liked the project very much. We talked about cinema and films. We liked each other. I was very happy since they had distributed and financed so many beautiful films.

What are your biggest creative influences?

My influences are vast. Bergman, Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Maurice Pialat but also Orson Welles and Italian neo-realism cinema.

What is your definition of independent film?

An independent film is for me the film which has been made with an independence of spirit.

How do you define success in terms of filmmaking?

The films whom the filmmaker can say: "I made the film without being manipulated on the essential of what I wanted to say or to show."

The success of a filmmaker is the success of his desire. A filmmaker should never give up on what he wants to say or to show. The success of the filmmaker I like, lie in his determination in making always the same film even if he is not narrating the same story.

What are some recent films you enjoyed?

Recent? "Wassup Rockers" by Larry Clark and "Transamerica" by Duncan Tucker.

Can you tell us a bit about your next projects?

My next project might be the story of a prison's psychiatrist. It is a love story. The script is already written.

[Get the latest from the Toronto International Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Toronto '06 section.]

This article is related to: Features, Interviews