Lunch with À l’Ouest [Westward]

Meeting with...

Interview with Jérémie Cousin, director of À l’Ouest [Westward]

What inspired you to make a short film about father-child relations, divorce and life’s trials?
I wanted to make a film on the lack of communication in a family and the problems that can lead to. My parents are divorced and everyone is doing fine nowadays but I think we’ve all suffered from a lack of communication, and it would have been good for us to talk to each other more when things didn’t go so well. I’ve also taken many sailboat cruises with my family and I’ve noticed that with the trials at sea, we’ve always ended up being ourselves and it didn’t matter what we’d hidden, the truth always came out at sea. So I naturally fit together the boat and the family in order to tell the story of a father and his sons on a sailboat who are working through a terrible family crisis.

The film’s tone is almost tragicomic. Was it important to you to deal with these subjects with a hint of lightness?
Yes, despite the tragic theme, I wanted to make a film that was pleasant to watch with characters who make us smile and relativize their situation a bit.

Can you say a little bit about the animation technique you used?
I chose digital 2D which allows me to work with successive layers: I began by working on the characters’ movements with very simple abstract forms. And when the overall movements seemed satisfactory, I added all the details to make the characters realistic, ending with the faces and a layer of shadow to give them some substance.

Which films did you draw from?
I watched a good number of films that take place on sailboats, but Bruno Podalydès’ Liberté-Oléron was my biggest inspiration, especially for the comedic side. I wanted to give a little nod to him in the scene where the son jumps in the water. Other than that, I’m quite interested in scriptwriting and I found Yves Lavandier’s Drama Writing very useful for writing this little story.

Have you discovered any advantages that the short film form offers?
The four-minute format allowed me to select the kernel of the story and pare the action down to the essentials: the film begins immediately with the boat hitting a rock. This very short format also let me see whether I was able to animate a film with human characters who dialogue in a setting that constantly moves. I was also able to experiment with a technique and new graphic style that I might not have dared to test on a longer film.

À l’Ouest [Westward] is part of National Competition F10.

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