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SUNDANCE 2021 Midnight

Harpo and Lenny Guit • Directors of Mother Schmuckers

"The constraints allowed us to develop a style that we really like”


- We met up with the Belgian directors to talk about their feature debut, which was selected in the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival

Harpo and Lenny Guit  • Directors of Mother Schmuckers

We met up with Harpo and Lenny Guit, already nicknamed by some the brats of Belgian cinema. They have just made Mother Schmuckers [+see also:
film review
interview: Harpo and Lenny Guit
film profile
, a feature debut shot as a "light production", as part of the call for small projects launched by the Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. An unhinged and wilfully provocative buddy movie about two resolutely mad brothers and their search for their dog in a rather grimy but very colourful Brussels, the film was part of the Midnight section of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Was it an obvious choice to write a story about brothers for this feature debut?
Lenny Guit: We initially wanted to make a buddy movie, to follow two characters who are forced to spend all their time together but who hate each other. Two characters who are so intertwined that they cannot leave each other. From there, the idea that they would be brothers was self-evident.

How would you define your cinema? At first glance, we could describe it as a crossroads between guerilla filmmaking and a kind of homemade cinema?
Harpo Guit: It is a bit of all that. We really learned with nothing, we had to find funny and ingenious ideas. That DNA runs through the entire film which, although it was financed, still had a very limited budget.

L.G.: It’s also an aesthetic we love. The constraints allowed us to develop a style that, in the end, we really like.

There is a real playfulness in the direction. What were some of your references?
We really admire the Italian cinema of the 1960s/70s, American comedies, but also comics and mangas.

L.G.: We try to take ideas from all over the place, and to lean on those references. For example, we love Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, this character who goes through a lot of adventures over a very limited period of time, just one night. We also adore Beavis & Butthead, this American cartoon about two stupid teenagers whose TV is stolen.

The common thread between these, but also with John Waters and Jackass, which has often been cited when discussing Mother Schmuckers, is irreverence.
Yes, these are people who wanted to go very far, beyond the limits. We’re also trying to go into uncomfortable areas.

L.G.: We wrote the film in a linear fashion, and our leitmotiv was: how can we make it so that the new scene is even worse than the one that comes before it? We were aiming for one-upmanship, basically.

The film actually begins with a powerful scene… of coprophagia.
In fact, we asked ourselves this question: what is the best way to start a film so that people might (potentially) decided to immediately turn it off? It seemed like a good idea… It actually comes from some friends’ video that was on YouTube, they were making a joke, they had tricked one of their friends into eating feces.

L.G.: We thought it would be a good introduction scene, to anchor and present the characters.

This is a film with a real freedom in terms of tone. Is this also a question of production conditions, did this "small budget" also give you that freedom?
Actually, for us, even that budget was a real bonus for us! We could finally pay people (laughter). Well, it’s true that we had to make some choices, sometimes it was very tight, but really, we like these constraints. They force us to remain attentive on set, and to be very creative to find ideas that work both financially and narratively.

H.G.: Indeed, the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money allowed us to do nearly whatever we wanted. The producer trusted us, and we were able to keep our ideas. In these conditions, we like the idea of making cheap films!

What are you planning to do next?
We are currently writing another film, another comedy. We like the idea of making another rather cheap film, that we could shoot pretty quickly.

L.G.: We know that it is very hard to make films, we’re already extremely happy that we could make one, and we don’t want to wait an eternity to make a second one…

(Translated from French)

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