Guillaume Brac • Director
"There was a whole other world in this small green space in the middle of the city"
by Fabien Lemercier
- KARLOVY VARY 2018: French filmmaker Guillaume Brac talks about his documentary Treasure Island, which world-premiered in competition at Karlovy Vary
Presented in the documentary competition section at the 53rd Karlovy Vary Festival (29 June-7 July) just days before its French release by Les Films du Losange, Treasure Island [+see also:
interview: Guillaume Brac
film profile] is the third feature film by Guillaume Brac following the fictional films Tonnerre [+see also:
film profile] (discovered at Locarno in 2013 and nominated for the Louis-Delluc Prize for Best First Film) and July Tales [+see also:
film profile] (out of competition at Locarno in 2017).
Cineuropa: You filmed the documentary Treasure Island and the fiction film July Tales in the same place – a water park near Paris. Where did the idea come from?
Guillaume Brac: I'd wanted to film there for several years in more of a documentary style. I used to go there when I was little, I had some pretty precise memories and found it to be a very cinegenic and exciting place, especially because of the mix of people you find in a summer context, which allows you to talk about more profound ideas in a more lighthearted way. I was given the opportunity to film for a few weeks with young actors from the Conservatoire as part of a workshop, and as I was already planning an idea for a documentary, I thought that it would be a good idea to shoot a fiction film so that I could assimilate myself with the place a bit more. So I initially shot July Tales, the first part of the diptych, and then the following summer I shot Treasure Island, which is in a way the reverse.
How did you choose the characters, given the transitory nature of people visiting the water park?
It's a film based on pleasure and unexpected meetings. We filmed for two months and a lot of the work involved walking around the huge water park in order to meet and talk to people. There are people in the film that I only saw once, others I asked if I could come back to see, but also the water park employees who were there regularly, even if it meant planning around their shifts. We filmed a lot and then there was a lot of editorial work to find a narrative and emotional thread in order to allow the film to develop into more than just a juxtaposition of different life moments. It was during the editing phase that the theme of childhood, the end of childhood, the end of youth, emerged, which echoes the course of summer.
The film does indeed have a sort of lost-paradise feel to it, very connected to childhood and the ephemeral nature of summer.
I filmed a lot of children, the emotional connection with this place is related to my own childhood and it is obviously not a coincidence that the film is called Treasure Island. It's a big liberating playground. There are also adult characters who have a connection to the issues of youth and freedom, such as a former teacher who talks about his trips to the water park with his students. You feel a sort of melancholy, of time, of youth passing, all during the course of the summer months. It's as if the passing of summer is an accelerated version of the cycle of life itself. The other narrative thread is the question of freedom and the transgression of rules. I realised that I thought of this place as a liberated space in contrast with society and its multiple rules, the world of work, etc. but the water park also has its own rules! The luxury of childhood and youth, it's a bit of a way to get around them. As a result, the film is also about the somewhat rebellious recreational spirit of such a liberating place.
You also touch on the issue of immigration.
Spending time with people, the people we meet without ever talking to them in our daily lives, on the underground, on commuter trains, everywhere, all these people who have maintenance, delivery, cashier jobs, etc, offered me an opportunity to discover who they really were, where they come from and to discover that an incredible number of them have very complex lives, coming from all over the world. There was a whole other world in this small green space in the middle of the city. We included two stories about migration in the film, but I heard tens of stories, all of them wonderful. The film is a means of taking a closer look at those who live among us, around us, but sometimes not always with us.
(Translated from French)
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