Interview with Marion Desseigne Ravel, director of Fatiya
A film like Fatiya allows the viewer to witness the realities faced by young veiled women who are victims of prejudice. It is a reality that is not often seen in film, even today. Is there a particular audience that you wanted to reach through this film?
I would like to reach everyone with this film, even viewers who may not experience the themes addressed in the film in their lives. For me, Fatiyais a character film. It’s not a film about a veiled girl, but a film about a heroine who wears a veil. I love cinema because I think it is an excellent way to see the world through someone else’s eyes…
Fatiya is torn between her friend’s insistence and her loyalty to her cousin. Female friendship is shown from different angles and plays an important role in this film. Is this film a tribute to sisterhood?
Our society can be very hard on people that don’t fit the mould: women, the poor, immigrants, LGBT people, etc. Faced with the latent violence that Fatiya experiences, I think solidarity is important. I also wanted to make a film about women, between women, between sisters. Despite their arguments, there is a solidarity and love that exists between Soukaïna and Fatiya. During the writing, I had the script read by friend and screenwriter Laure Desmazières, who is showing her film Zaïna46, which I had the pleasure of co-writing, and is being presented in the Adami carte blanche (program ADA2, editor’s note). She said something simple but essential about this film: “in fact, it’s a story about friendship”.
In the film, we realize how important physical appearances are for young people, whether it be going out to the mall, on video chat, or the way they are judged by what they choose to wear. Is this an aspect that you wanted to highlight in this film?
I am particularly passionate about the costumes I choose for my actors. Clothes do not make the man, but for me, finding the outfit for the actress is a key stage in the development of the character. The question of appearance is decisive in the story I want to tell: Fatiya is judged by her appearance, her cousin defines herself by her taste in clothing, how we decide to appear for others says a lot about us! I also like the apparent paradox that I have often seen with teenagers: Fatiya wears a rather austere veil, but it goes perfectly with the rest of her outfit, all the way down to the color of her sneakers!
Lyna Khoudri is very convincing in the role of Fatiya. How did you approach with her and the other actors the film’s themes of disempowerment, prejudice and how we are seen by others?
To find Fatiya and her friends, we saw over 150 girls with our casting director Anaïs Duran. Lyna stood out from the beginning due to her great sensitivity. In the film, I think it is the fact that she is able to deeply touch the viewer that we are able to embrace her point of view in the story. I began by telling her where the film came from and why I wanted to tell this story. For 7 years, I worked as a volunteer for an association offering academic support. In particular, I worked with a group of young girls throughout their teenage years until they reached adulthood. Certain girls around 15 and 16 started to wear the veil. I discussed this choice with them. The aborted babysitting job was directly inspired by a story that I heard and that I found to be interesting and revealing of tensions in today’s society. During rehearsals, Lyna confided to me that she liked the scene because in her opinion it reflected a reality that her veiled friends and cousins had shared with her. So, we quickly developed an understanding and it was very easy to work with her.
Are there any particular freedoms that the short film format allows you?
I want every film to be a new challenge and an opportunity to try new things. As the film was shot almost entirely in huis-clos and my heroines seemed to be locked up in the universe of the shopping mall, we quickly decided with our photography director Lucile Mercier to play around with the formats. I chose to use Snapchat and FaceTime to create openings in the confined space of the film. I think that the frame format can also have an expressive dimension to it… During the last scene, the frame went from 4/3 to 1.85 at the moment when the girls finally manage to literally get some breathing space. Using different formats has a playful quality to it, but it also forces you to question yourself: A vertical Snapchat-like frame forces you to think and compose differently, we don’t see the body in the same way, with the same distance… The other question I asked myself is how to take into account the strange “interspace” of virtual communications. In the film, the girls constantly communicate with their smartphones and Fatiya doesn’t have a single moment of peace. I wanted to express both the young, pop aspect of messaging as well as the invasive side! I am fascinated by the way in which very different times and spaces can be superimposed when we receive a text message… we tried to convey this by making the messages appear in the middle of the frame superimposed on the image.
Fatiya was shown in National Competition.