In “Excess Will Save Us” – named this week joint winner of Rotterdam Film Festival’s Special Jury Award – Morgane Dziurla-Petit returns to Villereau, a village in the north of France where nothing ever happens. Or, according to some of the locals, everything does – from freak accidents to terrorist scares and the curious case of disappearing pigeons.

“Laughter is what brought me to making this film. It’s the way we communicate with each other in my family and in the village. Whatever we do, there is always this humor,” the Sweden-based director tells Variety after the online awards ceremony.

“I started with all the stories that intrigued me and yes, made me laugh, but I wasn’t trying to make a ‘funny’ film. I liked the idea of a comedy that makes you sad or a drama that makes you laugh.”

Expanding her 2019 short of the same name, and once again asking her family to participate, she decided to reference it in the hybrid film, with the protagonists celebrating its premiere at Clermont-Ferrand.

“This short really brought us together. For my father, it was also his way out. Despite his age, he would feel like a teenager sometimes, just stuck in this place. Thanks to the film, he understood there was hope for him too, in a way. It made him happy,” she says. But as her own circumstances changed over the years, she created an alter ego to represent her old self, played by Kim Truong.

“I just didn’t feel like that kid who tries to escape anymore. I was a director, choosing to be there. That was a huge difference,” she adds.

“After my parents split, I would still visit the village. I didn’t know what to do there, I just wanted out. Now, I started to see it in a new way and I have developed a huge love for it. I really believe that if you are feeling stuck somewhere, you have to leave in order to appreciate it all over again.”

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Morgane Dziurla-Petit Courtesy of Filip Lyman

Following her short’s international success, Dziurla-Petit originally intended to follow it with a series. But while she is currently focusing on other projects – including “Twilight of the Gods,” announced at Haugesund’s Nordic Co-Production Market, and “Pitchoune,” produced by Ninon Chapuis, Lucas Le Postec and Thibault De Gantes for L’Heure d’été, granted CNC’s development support – she might still consider another trip to Villereau further down the road.

“Yesterday I called my grandfather and he went: ‘Come back, I am ready for our next film!,’ ” she laughs, admitting that working with your own family can be trying at times.

“I would give them directions and they would interpret them in the most bizarre ways – especially my dad. Luckily, I love surprises. My family, they are very loud people. I was always the quiet one, so it was hard to make them respect me sometimes. They all wanted to be directors; they had their own ideas and wanted to make them happen.”

Dziurla-Petit has always been interested in exploring the line between reality and fiction, she says. In her short “Grab Them,” made using deepfake technology, a woman’s search for happiness is hindered by the fact that she looks a lot like a certain former American president. Now, in “Excess Will Save Us,” Donald Trump – and his theories about bleach – are getting a mention once again.

“I was thinking a lot about fear and about how people exploit it in the media. Trump took it to a whole new level, using the concept of ‘fake news’ and it’s something that’s directly related to this story. My characters end up creating their own fake news because it brings them together, in a way, as they unite against [another threat],” she says.

“Now, after the first screenings, many people tell me that after a while, they don’t care about what’s real and what’s not, whether it’s a documentary or pure fiction. Just like the people in that village. At the end of the day, we all just want a good story.”