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Sarah Hirtt • Director of Escapada

"A mix of stories about heritage and resistance in order to talk about living together"


- We spoke to the young Belgian filmmaker Sarah Hirtt, whose first feature film, Escapada comes out in Belgium theatres tomorrow

Sarah Hirtt • Director of Escapada

We spoke to the young Belgian filmmaker Sarah Hirtt, noticed in 2013 with her graduation film, En attendant le dégel, selected at Cannes as part of the Cinéfondation section, where it won second prize. After a second short film, Javotte, she is due to release her first feature film, Escapada [+see also:
film review
interview: Sarah Hirtt
film profile
– produced by Patrick Quinet for Artemis Production – in Belgium on 13 March with Cinéart

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Cineuropa: Where did the idea for Escapada comefrom?
Sarah Hirtt:
A number of different things really. I wanted to revisit the theme of siblings who are forced to reconnect, a topic I broached in my short film En attendant le dégel, but I also wanted to go back to Spain. It is a country I like a lot, and I really wanted to talk about the indignados movement of the early 2010s. I thought a lot about the problem of housing following the explosion of the housing bubble. I met people who were part of the Okupas movement, a highly politicised squatters movement. I wanted to mix these stories together to talk about the notion of living together. Whether in a family with brothers and sisters with very different life choices, or in a community in resistance, which strives to defend the values of civil disobedience and solidarity. 

Does talking about heritage allow you to write about a new life?
Gustave sees a solution to his financial problems, Lou to her desires elsewhere, and Jules a way to assert his anti-capitalist values, while maintaining a certain stability and security that he just can’t get moving from squat to squat, given that he’s a father.

Do you think a tension exists between societal utopias and family responsibilities?
Yes, and I wanted to study the cognitive dissonance between our ideals, the values we defend, and the way in which we can behave within society, which can sometimes become resistant to our convictions. I experience it every day, and my characters do, too. It was their contradictions that interested me. Drawing out their faults and strengths, their internal conflicts and desires. How do we question our beliefs and live together differently? I wanted to explore that idea without imposing too much morality on the story.

Why did you choose Spain as the setting for the film?
Spain has a bright, colourful side to it and I wanted to make a feel-good movie that left viewers feeling positive afterwards. There is a collective participatory energy in Spain. I have worked with a number of amateur actors who have these anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anarchist ideals. I wanted to capture that particular journey, that breakaway, that collective fight.                   

You have a very naturalistic aesthetic approach.
We worked a lot with natural light and I think that location, the choice of set and costumes are all very important as well as the time of day you decide to shoot. It brings a very realistic poetry to the film. I had no desire to want to make a film that was overly sophisticated, because that would be at odds with the subject matter, and it brought us a lot of freedom of movement, as well as beautiful moments of improvisation. I like film sets not to look like film sets, but like real life. I removed various constraints in order to capture the energy and spontaneity of the actors, especially the amateur actors. Even when it came to calibration, I wanted simple, natural beauty. Something alive. 

Can you tell us about the cast?
I worked with François Neycken while studying film and wanted to work with him again. Gustave’s character can sometimes be a bit of a nay-sayer, and I counted on François’ natural empathy. I sawRaphaëlle Corbisier in a her final graduation performance and she was amazing, so I offered her a role in the cast. As for Yohan Manca, I had to find that rare pearl, a French-speaking AND Spanish-speaking actor and I found him in France. The three have little experience working in film and it pleased me to see that freshness, even if it was difficult to sell a film that doesn’t star any famous actors.

What are your future plans?
I’ve started writing my next feature and am currently looking for a co-writer. I also want to make another short film. Doing feature films takes so much time and energy, I want to make a few more shorts, to embrace a little freedom, and to try new things…

(Translated from French)

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