What interested you in the relationship to the animal and the reactions we might have to it, from fear to empathy, as well as the aspect of training the animal?
Our primary concern was not seeing it too much. Hearing it and sensing it like in old genre films. Building the mystery so as to uncover it better at the end of the film. The viewer’s imagination is very often more powerful than the best special effects. At first we wanted to make something kind of gross which then becomes almost cute and endearing over the long run. Even assuming a certain elegance when it’s covered with its tribal ornaments at the end of the film.
Why did you choose to include mystical dance sequences in the film, and how did you manage the film’s pacing with those scenes that seem almost “suspended” in time?
That allowed us to develop Jawak’s personality by stressing his traditional / mystical side. We love dance, so the sequences came pretty naturally, but we were worried about their execution and mystical dimension. We wanted something simple, yet original and plausible at the same time. There also had to be similarities between the child’s dance and the adult’s without one being a copy of the other. The actors played a big part in developing the choreography. We rehearsed with Issaka, who is a very good dancer and who quickly came up with some good moves. Then we took that basic dance and worked on it with Ibrahim (young Jawak) so that he could find his own interpretation. The use of slow-motion lightened the atmosphere as we were hoping, and then the sound added the magical final touch.
How did you imagine the animal species in the film?
We thought it would be interesting to develop a species that was not initially designed to move quickly, and therefore not at all ready to fight. Also a curious mix of different species, both land and water animals. So we began with a snake, an octopus, even a pig for some of the parts. We also liked the idea of having an animal without eyes and playing around with its head as if it were a snout. At one point we even thought of having mechanical, robotic parts, but we preferred to move in the direction of ornaments and decorations. That fit better with our story and it also let us develop a coherent stylistic template for the whole film.
Why did you want to discuss social relations in the film, beginning with a group of unsupervised children who are having fun and then overstep certain limits?
We wanted to make a film that mixes genres: we liked the idea of an intimate science-fiction film with occasional social commentary. At the same time, in addition to the particular context, quickly creating social / affective bonds among the characters lets you base a relatively visual film in a story that really talks about something. We also undoubtedly felt some nostalgia for American films of the 90s where children play the central role of the hero who braves the forbidden.
Any cinematic coups de cœur in the past year you’d like to tell us about?
Living abroad, these films are probably not from this year, but we liked Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang for its “lively” seriousness, and Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria for its modernity and the appropriateness of its exercise in style.
If you’ve already been to Clermont-Ferrand, could you share with us an anecdote from the festival? If not, what are your expectations for this year?
Yes, we’ve already been here several times. As a matter of fact, we were both here in 2006 with our respective student films. That shows our age! It makes us veterans! It was really, really cold; there was ice everywhere on the streets, so to avoid tumbling we went to watch movies and warm up a little by drinking at the Brasserie de la Gare Routière…
Are you taking part in any other events during the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival (Espressos, conferences, other)?
Yes, we’ll be there and we’ll be meeting with schoolchildren on Thursday the 9th, as well as with the general public on Friday the 10th at Le Rio cinema.