Belgium’s Fien Troch, who won best director in Venice Film Festival’s Horizons section in 2016 with “Home,” returned to the Lido last week to pitch her fifth feature, “Holly,” in the Venice Gap-Financing Market.
The project, which is budgeted at €2.5 million, is produced by Antonino Lombardo’s Belgian outfit Prime Time. The Dardenne Brothers’ company, Les Films du Fleuve, is among the co-producers.
“[The Dardenne Brothers] have been following Fien’s work for a long time, so it’s great to be able to finally work with them,” says Elisa Heene, who produces alongside Lombardo.
The film tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who unwittingly becomes a savior figure in the aftermath of a school fire. A traumatized community looks to her for consolation, but very soon the line between support and abuse blurs.
“It’s about the power of a community, what connects people, how they interact with each other – it’s about exploring human nature,” says Heene.
The film’s other central figure is the girl’s teacher. “She has this big dream of becoming a world savior and doing good, and she sees in Holly something special, the perfect tool to achieve that ideal of becoming this Mother Teresa figure. The film is also about what it means to do good – can you really put yourself aside or is there always a personal motivation?” adds Troch, who writes all of her screenplays.
Shooting is set to start next year in the suburbs of Brussels and casting is underway. As with “Home,” Troch plans to film with a mix of professionals and non-professionals.
“It’s a totally different way of filmmaking,” says Heene. “What we’re looking for is authenticity; it’s very interesting working with non-professional actors.”
Authenticity is a central theme to Troch’s work. While entirely scripted, “Home” had a definite doc-style feel.
“ ‘Home’ was meant to feel like we accidentally had a camera and got into a story and just filmed – of course that wasn’t the case: Everything was very prepared. But that was what the viewer had to feel,” explains Troch.
“What I did with ‘Home’ was extreme, working with a very small crew so we had the freedom to move around. ‘Holly’ will be more cinematic. But at the same time, I’m always investigating how I can find a much freer way to film. With each film, I always try to find the right language, what’s best for the film and empowers the story,” she adds.
Troch will be teaming up again with DoP Frank Van den Eeden, her husband, Nico Leunen, who has edited all of her films, and American musician Johnny Jewel of the Chromatics, who also provided the soundtrack for “Home.”
“Music is very important in my films. ‘Home’ was a very interesting experience for me because, all of a sudden, music became more present than in my previous films, almost like another character. I will very likely have the same approach for ‘Holly,’ ” says Troch.
The film is a Belgian-Dutch-French co-production with France’s Agat Films, Topkapi in the Netherlands, and Belgium’s Les Films du Fleuve. Other backers include Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), Casa Kafka, Cinéart, Netherlands Film Fund, and Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération WallonieBruxelles.