French director Louise Carrin, whose home for the past 13 years has been Lausanne, Switzerland, has an urge to create every day, she tells Variety. Moviemaking being a long process, for about 10 years now she has found equal satisfaction in music. She is about to release her debut rap album “Banana Part” under her alias Lweez. On Friday, she was on stage at the Visions du Réel film festival, in Nyon, Switzerland, to present her first feature film “Big Boy” (“La Cour des grands”). She spoke to Variety about her work.
Selected for the festival’s national competition, the moving film follows Amadou Diallo, a Guinean refugee, shortly after he arrived, on his own, in Lausanne. His brother died on the road to exile. His sister, the only family he has left, stayed behind. Amadou is 16 and his daily life is spent between the asylum seekers’ center and integration classes. Six months of filming in 2018 captured him adjusting to his new environment, bonding with his classmates, and even falling in love with Senawbar, an Afghan refugee.
“Accompanied loneliness,” as Carrin, names it, is a recurring theme in her work: people whose feelings are multiplied tenfold because of their social isolation. Her signature could also be a tendency for “in camera” – that is, behind closed doors – situations, and marginalized characters, she sums up. Her “Papillons noirs” (Visions du Réel, 2013) was filmed inside the car of an illegal cab driver. While “Venusia,” which got her the Principal Prize at the Oberhausen short film fest 2016, was shot in a luxury brothel in Geneva.
Years of piano, classical and modern dance, parents who are fans of French and Italian cinema: Carrin grew up with art. Other directors who made a strong impression on her were John Cassavetes, Aleksandr Sokurov, Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers, to name but a few. She grabbed her first camera at 16, and has never let go. On her films, she directs all the shots. But she also pictures herself acting one day.
In Milan, where she was a model from the age of 17 to 19, she was able to test her ease in front of the camera when shooting commercials. After studying at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, she obtained a master’s degree in film direction at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL).
Nowadays, as well as teaching an audiovisual course at bachelor’s degree level, she runs a production company, Les Films du Causse, with her younger brother, the director Jules Carrin.
“I wanted to make a film about youth for a long time,” she says. “When I came across these young migrants, I was overwhelmed to see that despite the harshness of their daily life, they were still teenagers with all their strength and carefree spirit. However, since I don’t like to make a film without having the knowledge of the field, I first applied to their school as a French teacher while explaining my project.”
After 18 months of teaching, she formed a class of new students for the film, with different nationalities, quick-witted and comfortable with the camera, to make the interaction interesting.
Shy at first, Amadou nevertheless caught her eye. “He is very intelligent, funny, endearing, and never let himself be defeated. It was a very beautiful encounter. He revealed himself over the weeks, until he became the gateway to the film. Nowadays, he works in Lausanne as a landscaper,” she says.
The bond of trust Carrin forged with the protagonists, thanks to her strong commitment, makes sparks fly on screen. Although she mostly gives them the credit: “What I like so much about ‘cinéma du réel’ [real-life cinema] is its ability to exceed fiction,” she says. “Depending on the rushes obtained and the students’ creativity, I would rewrite the script every night for the next day.”
Carrin speaks quickly, getting straight to the point, and describes her projects – the next one will be about the struggle of health-care workers in a COVID unit – with what sounds like a will to fight for justice. “I am a very sensitive person,” she concedes, “and when I am touched by something, I feel the need to talk about it publicly.”
She describes herself as a strong-minded person. “I also reckon I have a pretty strong feminine take on the world,” she adds. “Sometimes I have the impression that we, women, are less trusted when it comes to getting finances for a film and that we have to bang our fist twice as hard on the table to be heard.”