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‘Parisienne’ Director Danielle Arbid on Telling A Positive Story About a Foreigner Living in Paris

'Parisienne' Director Danielle Arbid on Telling A Positive Story About a Foreigner Living in Paris

Danielle Arbid been directing films since 1997. Selected for numerous festivals in France and abroad (Cannes, New York Film Festival, San Francisco, Locarno, Pusan, Tokyo Filmex, etc.), her narrative films and documentaries have received dozens of prestigious awards. 

Her two feature films, “Dans les champs de bataille” (“In The Battlefields”) and “Un homme perdu” (“A Lost Man”), were selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Festival in 2004 and 2007, as well as for around thirty international festivals, collecting a number of awards, including the Directors’ Fortnight prize and the Grand Prize in Milan.

She’s currently working on her fourth feature, an adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s bestselling book “Simple Passion.” (Press materials) 

Parisienne” made its New York premiere at Rendez-Vous With French Cinema on March 10. A second screening will take place March 12 at 1:30 pm. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

DA: “Parisienne” is about how you forge a life in a new place when you are 18. And it’s about a Lebanese girl who discovers Paris and the French in the 90s, and through these encounters, discovers herself.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

DA: I wanted the camera to actually observe the people who come from the outside to live inside a country, instead of fantasizing about them.

Also, I wanted to say the sum of who we become is thanks to the people we meet. I wanted to make a positive film.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

DA: Strangely, producing “Parisienne” was very long and difficult because the people who mainly finance films didn’t understand the idea of a young foreign girl having a good time in Paris. They wanted to see her suffering and poor, and definitely not falling in love with three French men!

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

DA: That kindness and freedom are not “has been” values in films and in life in general. And that we can still be young and free even if we are 70. 

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

DA: Make films. And don’t listen to anybody, except those who tell you “yes” and who are ready to help you.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work? 

DA: That I’m a Lebanese woman who directs films. That’s not it at all. I am not really a woman nor am I really an Arab. Because I am not an apologist for women, nor of sentimental “world” films. 

I like women who are so real that they become as cowardly as certain men, as heroic as others and as sexual and dominating as men can be. And as you can imagine everything I do is [misunderstood]. 

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

DA: It’s a film about the 90s with 60 locations and 70 speaking parts. It was shot in 32 days — mostly in Paris — with a budget of one million euros. 

It’s a film that was made as a gesture of defiance to the major television channels in France, who did not give one dollar. And to the system in general. It was financed through the avance sur recettes (an advance from the French government on future box office revenue), funds from a French region, a small television channel and private funds. And especially thanks to the faith of its technical crew and actors.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

DA: For the moment it’s Kathryn Bigelow, because she doesn’t tell only women’s stories. But she doesn’t do sexual films either, and that what bothers me a little bit!

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