Why did you decide to set the film within a network of traffickers?
I wanted to tell the story of the lives of these young people who are locked in a system, cut off from their families, whose only reference point is their work.
Did you do prior research into mafia circles and their members?
I didn’t do any research. It was enough that I grew up in a family that was tied to the mafia. I’ve been a part of that world since I was a little kid.
With regard to the organ trafficking in the film, did you use real events that you’d verified through investigation, or are they completely made up?
It’s completely made up. I wanted to use a form of trafficking that everyone knows about that allowed me to make the modern-day enslavement of these young people seem normal.
How and why did you develop and present the “Don’s” henchmen? Don’t they seem more like the young people who hide out in South American maras than characters in The Godfather – and why so?
These kids emanate a thirst for life, freedom and innocence despite working for the “Don”. He’s a surrogate father for them who’s given them a job, a roof over their heads, clothes, enough to live respectably, but the flipside is that they’ve lost the right to speak to their families. I like the complexness of their relationship: the Don is both their savior and their torturer. It’s true, the kids do seem like ones in the maras, they have no other choice than joining the system if they want to survive, which then becomes their new family. And their activities will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Why did you want to use a love interest to threaten the main character’s loyalty, rather than friendship or a desire to get rich on his own?
My first film, Little Jaffna, was criticized for being too masculine, with no women, so for this film I wanted a strong female character. When I was younger, I translated political asylum requests for OFPRA [The French Bureau for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Peoples] and I was struck by the story of a young undocumented woman. When she came to France she had nowhere to stay and the man who smuggled her in was lodging her. That sparked my desire to have a romance between the two characters.
Have you discovered any advantages that the short film form offers?
(Laughing) No, I haven’t learned from my first film. On the contrary, I still find this format just as difficult. That’s why I made a medium-length film. I wanted to situate myself in my story and take the necessary time to tell it.
Which films did you draw from?
The Loyal Man is a mix of Winding Refn’s Drive and Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog.