French filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh met at university while studying political science before diverging towards separate careers. Trouilh trained in documentary filmmaking; Liatard worked on urban artistic projects in Lebanon and France. They eventually joined back up to film three shorts: “Gagarine,” a Sundance Channel Shorts Competition Jury Prize winner in 2016; “The Republic of Enchanters”; and their latest, “Blue Dog,” which is in competition at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, available on VOD platforms around the world.
In “Blue Dog” the pair weaves a story of inclusion along with one rooted in a father-and-son relationship, all in a mixed tone of realism and fable. “The movie enlightens the strength of the community against isolation, especially in the kind of neighborhood we are filming,” they say.
Can you talk a bit about the story in “Blue Dog”?
It’s the story of Emile, a 60-year-old man, living in a social housing building in Paris suburbs with his son Yoan. For months, Emile doesn’t go out. He is afraid of the outside world and stays in his apartment, painting everything in blue. This color is the only thing that makes him feel good. Yoan needs to get some fresh air and one day he meets a girl, Soraya, a French teenager, from Comoros and a Tamil dance lover. She will help Yoan find a way to bring his dad back to life.
Did you plan to have parallel plots from the beginning?
We started this project spending some weeks in the neighborhood where the film takes place, in Aubervilliers, near Paris, because we were invited there by a local association. We met a lot of inhabitants who inspired this story and even act in the film in the case of Rod Paradot (Yoan). They inspired the themes of inclusion and diversity, because we wanted to tell how rewarding opening up to each other can be. The father-son relationship helped us to develop an intimate story within this context.
It’s not the first time you’ve shot in the suburbs…
As a matter of fact, so far we’ve shot all our films in social housing neighborhoods with inhabitants from those suburbs as well as professional actors. We chose those specific contexts because we think those territories represent the places where the community is the most diverse nowadays. We got tired of those images of cars burning and daily violence. Of course those places have economic and exclusion issues, but they also are rich in diversity and solidarity. “Blue Dog” could be seen as a family story or the beginning of a love story. But for us it’s most of all, a fable about an isolated sensibility that needs other colors to find a way out.
What are the specific cinema references you draw from?
We love the cinema from the ‘80s –for instance Leos Carax (“Boy Meets Girl,” “The Lovers on the Bridge”) or Krzysztof Kieslowski (“Dekalog,” “Three Colors: Blue”), for the originality of the films’ characters and how they use colors and lightning to bring poetry into very realistic contexts. Nowadays, we feel inspired by the work of Hirokazu Kore-Eda (“Nobody Knows”), Andrey Zvyangintsev (“Loveless”), Naomi Kawase (“Still the Water”) and Abdellatif Kechiche (“The Secret of the Grain”). They all have a very singular and powerful way of recreating life in their films, with a precise look on context, details and characters that moves us a lot.
What kind of cinema are you interested in making going forward?
We want to continue to make films with strong social backgrounds, that talk about people we are not used to seeing that much in movies. Each individual always has a specific vision, a different sensibility of the world they live in, we want to tell stories with different colors every time, because we want our characters to bring their own atmospheres to our films.
What’s on the horizon?
We are developing our first feature film, “Gagarine,” with Haut et Court, to shoot this year. The film also takes place in Paris’ suburbs, in Ivry-sur-Seine. We made a short film there in 2015, in a public housing project which was launched by the astronaut Yuri Gagarin in the 60s. In the film, a teenage boy named Yuri is confronted with the necessity to leave the building where he grew up. But he is a dreamer, this place is his spaceship, and he’s not ready yet to say goodbye to his imaginary world. Documentary and fiction are intermingled as the real building is going to be destroyed this summer. The clock is ticking for the shoot and we are currently casting with Judith Chalier, the casting director for Kechiche and Raymond Depardon.