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Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | “A Few Days of Respite” Director Amor Hakkar

Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | "A Few Days of Respite" Director Amor Hakkar

After escaping Iran, where their relationship means a death sentence, Hassan and Mohsen make it all the way to France. While stopped over in a small town to await their train to Paris, Mohsen befriends the lonely, but warm, Yolande, who offers him employment, kindness, and the possibility of a peaceful life.

Amor Hakkar directs and stars as the aging man torn between a security he has never known and his passionate connection to his younger lover. A minimalist film that nevertheless feels visually and emotionally full, without forced sentimentality or manufactured drama, A Few Days of Respite questions the nature of love and happiness and the sacrifices we may make to achieve either. In this film directed and written with precision and economy, Hakkar allows us to know these characters in a single line of dialogue, and feel their conflict within the power of a glance. [Description courtesy of the Sundance Institute]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the World Dramatic & Documentary Competitions and NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

“A Few Days of Respite”
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Director: Amor Hakkar
Screenwriter: Amor Hakkar
Cast: Marina Vlady, Samir Guesmi, Amor Hakkar
Cinematographer: Nicolas Roche
Editor: Juliette Kempf, Julie Picouleau
Music: Joseph Macera
Photographer: Nicolas Roche, Allan Guichaoua
Sound: Thomas Buet
Sound Designer: Eric Tisserand

Responses courtesy of “A Few Days of Respite” director Amor Hakkar.

A true writer/director

I’ve always invented and written stories and have been fond of writing for a very long time. I always wanted to turn these written stories into images. Then I discovered the camera and all the jobs that are associated with filmmaking such as lighting, editing, and of course the production itself.

I was particularly shocked by a photo I saw in the press. It was about the hanging of two Iranians whose crime was being homosexual. The idea that two human beings could be sentenced to death or to a prison sentence only because they love each other is unbearable. For me, there aren’t heterosexual love stories on one side and homosexual love stories on the other: there are LOVE STORIES between persons who must choose and act freely. Homosexuality is systematically sentenced in all the Muslim countries, and in the west, homophobia remains quite widespread in spite of legislative improvements in favor of personal freedom and respect of each person whatever their sexual orientation.

The issue of clandestinity is also important for me. It seems to me necessary to me to highlight the several different factors around illegal immigration. You don’t only come to France for economical reasons or material comfort. War, the deprivation of essential freedoms, the bribery of certain political systems – they all lead to illegal immigration. We mustn’t confuse the motivations of each person.

Finally, I wanted to evoke the loneliness of the contemporary human being, when the means of communication have never been as developed. Loneliness facing the coming of old age, the importance of looking at oneself which allows to feel existing again.

On the approach to making the film…

I rely on the strength of the screenplay, which is the main thread, but I always stay open to the ideas of each person during the shoot and how my feelings develop throughout the production.

Financial challenges, abandoned banks and other risks worth taking

One of the main challenges was financial…
We had to be very imaginative for the film to be shot. For example, we accommodated all the film team in a former bank because we couldn’t afford to pay for the hotel! Due to this lack of money, we only had 4 weeks to shoot, with several travels, it was a risky gamble! The other major challenge consisted in knowing if I would be able to manage being an actor and director simultaneously.

If at first you don’t succeed, tell them you directed “The Yellow House.”

We wanted to rent an isolated house close to a railway to shoot certain scenes. We found one that was vacant but the owners we contacted refused to rent it to us. A few days later, they heard that I was the director of the feature “The Yellow House,” they had seen it and enjoyed it a lot. Then they contacted us to tell us they permitted us to use their house but without having to rent it – they wanted to lend it to us for free!

Any projects in the pipeline?

I’m working on a project, “The Wars of Myriam,” with a screenplay by Florence Bouteloup.    

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