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CANNES L’ATELIER ’06 INTERVIEW: Bernard Bellefroid: “When you are living in a world full of violence

CANNES L'ATELIER '06 INTERVIEW: Bernard Bellefroid: "When you are living in a world full of violence

Every day through the end of the 2006 Festival de Cannes, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing interviews with filmmakers participating in the L’Atelier du Festival, which according to Cannes, “was created in 2005 to reveal a new generation of filmmakers through the world, whose works, still at the project stage, might one day be honoured by being selected for the Cannes Film Festival.” Eighteen filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions.

Director Bernard Bellefroid is at L’Atelier with his feature film project, “La Regate,” which is the story of fifteen year old Alexandre, who lives and works with his father in a suburban supermarket but dreams of competing in the Belgium rowing championships.

Please tell us about yourself and your background, including where you were born and grew up, as well as how you became a filmmaker.

I was born in Liege, a small city in the French-speaking part of a country in the centre of Western Europe, Belgium. I spent my childhood and youth in Namur, before I moved to Brussels to start my studies at the Academy for Film. I do not precisely remember why and how I became a filmmaker. Observing was always obvious for me. When you are living in a world full of violence, you can only resist by observing. The glare is the weapon for the poor, for people not having any other strength. Little by little, regarding became my business. Today, it is evidence.

Please tell us about your previous work, including information about your recent films and other creative projects.

I have just finished a documentary film about the public tribunals in Rwanda called “Gacaca“. These tribunals are seeking to judge the culprits of the 1994 genocide within a reasonable time. This film is now making its way around the world. Having been selected at Biarritz, Nyon, Madrid and Montreal, it will soon be shown during the film festivals in Los Angeles and New York. Besides the project that I will present during the Atelier du Festival de Cannes, I am about to prepare a feature film dealing with the Rwandan Genocide. For this film I am currently looking for Anglo-Saxon partners who might help me to develop it.

“La Regate” Director Bernard Bellefroid. Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.

Please tell us about your new project. What is it about and what inspired you to pursue this new project?

“La Regate” tells the story of Alexandre, a 15 years old teenager living with his father in a world of domestic violence. To escape this never-ending daily routine, Alexandre sails on the Meuse and has only one obsession: winning at any price the Belgium rowing championships. Meanwhile, back at the supermarket, his father is progressively humiliated, morally harassed and fired right in front of Alexandre, who is offered his father’s job. As of this instant, the violence between Alexandre and his father grows and grows. Beaten, but not yet down for the count, Alexandre finally reaches the Belgian championships, thanks to his friendship with Tarik, his team-mate with whom he rows together in the same boat. He will discover love as well with Murielle, even if he has to learn it all over again. Learning once more to speak, learning to cry. For he who never weeps, never truly lives…

I know well Alexandre. I’ve long looked at the world through his eyes. Like him, I long lived under conditions of so-called domestic violence, private and hidden. Today, Alexandre is no more than a character, who lives inside me and whose representation is intimately obvious to me. With this film, it is a question, for me, of describing a system where intimate violence and violence of the world are not disassociated, but rather interpenetrate one another. It is equally a question of reflecting on the transmission of violence, asking oneself if we can interrupt the cycle of violence, if it is possible to put a halt to the tragedies from which we emerged.

What do you hope to accomplish for the project while you are in Cannes? What are your specific needs to continue developing your new project?

Having completed the project’s development, we now hope to find financial partners to finish the production. It is our strength in Belgium that we are always obliged to work within different cultures (French, Flemish, and German). We never make a Belgian film, but rather international films finding their public inside and outside our borders. This is why we hope to find international partners for this film as well.

What are some of your favourite movies and influences, including other films and filmmakers, as well as other creative influences? Which films are you most interested in seeing at this years Festival?

I do not have any particular influences; I have never been a big cineaste. In my opinion, it is not a good idea to idealize other filmmakers when you are yourself making movies. Nevertheless, I will closely watch the new film of Kaurismaki, whose work I really appreciate. But overall, I am open for all the positive surprises waiting for me.

[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Cannes ’06 section.]

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