Debut filmmaker Marine Levéel’s “Magnetic Harvest” arrives at the MyFrenchFilmFestival, the online film festival that runs Jan. 16-Feb. 16, capping a whirlwind year of awards and recognition. It first premiered at the Angers Film Festival, scooping the audience prize, before competing at the Hof Film Festival and France’s prestigious Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.
Produced by Marthe Lamy and Jeanne Ezvan at Apache Films, “Magnetic Harvest” was the beneficiary of state and regional funds, as well as presales to France Television before shooting started, a key to the film’s eventual success, according to Levéel.
France’s New Rurals, a group of young, ambitious workers who are electing to stay or move back to the picturesque pastures of France’s countryside, take center stage in this love story between a farmer whose prized breeding hog has escaped and a close friend returned from a long stint abroad.
Levéel spoke with Variety ahead of MFFF about her own rural upbringing, presenting an updated image of life in the country and what she’s got planned next.
Are you from a rural background? Is the setting of this film something familiar to you?
Indeed I am. I grew up in a small village in Normandy. A lot of relatives are farmers from generation to generation. With my siblings and cousins, we were the first to leave the region to study and work abroad, but I also have friends my age who settled as farmers after their studies. In France we call them “new rurals.” It’s hard work being a farmer and a lot of movies show that, but it’s not all harshness. I wanted to show something different, more contemporary. I made “Magnetic Harvest” a little like a fairy tale with its colorful scenes and romantic elements. I wanted to depict sensitive characters in a world where there is hope to change the views people have about rurals. A lot of people have told me it was different from what they were used to seeing and they enjoyed the film’s positiveness and modernity.
How did you find the experience of heading your own film? I see you’ve worked on several productions, but this is your first solo directing gig.
I worked hard on “Magnetic Harvest” with the help of a terrific crew and great actors such as Gilles Vandeweerd and Victor Fradet. I loved the shooting; the weather was on our side and the locals were amazingly helpful. It felt like a little family, everybody working together outdoors. I really felt we were all looking in the same direction.
Yours is one of the most colorful shorts at MyFrenchFilmFestival. The costumes, the settings, the machinery, even at night, feel deliberately vibrant. How important was getting the color palette of your film correct?
I’m an art lover and very fond of painting. I worked in a precise way on the color palette of “Magnetic Harvest” to obtain a pictorial effect, kind of pop-art. I conceived some frames as paintings with the director of photography Léo Roussel. Together we played a lot with complementary colors. I also picked the color palette from paintings I liked to create the design of the digital maps shown in the movie. Spring is a time of renewal and promise. When you work outdoors it is such an invigorating feeling to watch the colors coming back. Mickaël, the main character, is touched by this, and it influences him unknowingly.
How has the year exhibiting this short been for you, and what are you working on now? Any plans to direct a feature?
I had two concerns about the reception of the film. The first was my family, because there is a lot of me and of where I come from in the movie. The second was the reception of the audience, and I was very scared last year at the Angers Film Festival for the premiere. But the public reception was really warm, and I received the audience prize – the most encouraging prize I could have won. The year after was incredible, full of joy and surprises. I travelled to as many film festivals as I could fit in my schedule. It was also a good opportunity to watch other films. There are so many filmmakers, and so many good shorts. It’s very stimulating to see how alive young cinema is today, and I hope it will last.
To direct a feature would be the next logical step, but funding is even harder to get. You also have a lot less artistic freedom. I’m currently in the writing stage of another project about new rurals. I’m also working on a short film because I still have other things to tell and to experiment with.