Canada: Talent tout court – Not Short on Talent | 2019
Pier-Philippe Chevigny: "I had worked with kids before, but never that young, and so I asked an older, established director for advice. "
RECRUE / REBEL | Canada 14’
To Alex, a naive six years old boy, the mysterious patrol's lead by his father's right-wing militia is nothing but opportunities to play hide and seek out in the woods. Until he ventures too far.
Hi Pier-Philippe, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Good! Thanks for having me!
Recrue is part of the Not Short on Talent selection what does it mean to be bringing your film to Cannes?
It's a great opportunity really. In and of itself, it's prestigious enough to be chosen out of so many shorts by (NSOT curator) Danny Lennon. But to get the chance to be screened in such a showcase in Cannes could really help the film's career, specifically in trying to secure a festival premiere. I can't wait!
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
Although it's my first time being "selected" to anything in Cannes (even though it's not in competition), it'll actually be my fifth time at the festival. So I'm not too nervous about the experience itself, I know what to expect. Of course, I hope the movie does well but I'm already very focused on upcoming projects so I don't worry too much about it.
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes?
Well, my producer (Geneviève Gosselin-G, at Unité Centrale) and I are developing a feature film project that might represent a co-production opportunity with Central/South America so we will be working on that for sure. Also, whenever I'm at the festival, I try to watch as many movies as possible. When I come home, I feel inspired and re-energized.
Can you tell me a little bit about Recrue/Rebel, how did this film come about?
RECRUE (Rebel) is about the rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec. It is set in the near future (2022) and tries to imagine how bad things could turn out if nothing is done politically. It is told through the eyes of a six-year-old boy who's too young to really understand the implications of what's going on around him. His father, who is part of some sort of right-wing militia, takes him to a mysterious gathering in the woods, and then, of course, things go bad.
What was the inspiration behind this film?
It's based on reality, mostly. For the past few years, right-wing groups have been popping up in Quebec, with organizations such as La Meute, Storm Alliance, Atalante. Much like what's happening with the Alt-right in the US, they have been attracting an increasingly large number of followers and are using social media to bypass the PC culture that prevails in the mainstream media. What they're doing is basically legitimizing hate speech, because there is not a very strong editorial control over what's being published on social media. So we've been seeing mass gatherings of such groups in the past years. The inspiration for the movie came from a single picture taken during a demonstration in Quebec City, with a preteen boy holding a flag. I've wondered what it's like to grow up within that context and never be given the freedom to question those ideas. And I've come up with my own hypothesis for it.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Recrue/Rebel to life?
The hardest part was casting a 6-year-old boy to play the main character. We've auditioned 40 boys before we chose Edouard-B Larocque, a young boy that had next to zero experience other than commercial work. But we could feel that he was really passionate and wanted to do it. I shoot mostly long takes with an over-the-shoulder camera and lots of moving around, and I tend to do a lot of takes, so that was a challenge to get an inexperienced boy to literally carry the whole film. But I think he did a fantastic job. We worked several months ahead of the shoot with Ariane Castellanos, an amazing actress and acting coach, to get him ready. And I think that work really paid off.
"I think my short film Tala (2013) is really the first one I did that felt like I had found a form that clicked."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Pretty much yes. I'm a kid of the '90s, and I've discovered film first through Hollywood, but then quickly had an interest in independent, art-house films. My passion for politics and social justice has intersected with films when I was in college and discovered old Cinéma direct movies from Quebec, and then through some foreign directors such as the Dardennes and Abbas Kiarostami. I knew early on I wanted to make films that bridged those two passions of mine, film and politics.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
Well yes, very much. I have done a lot of short films for the past 15 years or so and, looking back I think it took a while to find an aesthetic that felt exciting and right for the stories I wanted to tell. I think my short film Tala (2013) is really the first one I did that felt like I had found a form that clicked. Then everything I did since then was sort of refinement of that form. The projects I'm working on now are trying to push it even further.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
I have advice that's been given to me while prepping for Recrue/Rebel and it's related to working with a kid, so maybe you can work it in there. When prepping for Recrue/Rebel I was really nervous about working with such a young kid. I had worked with kids before, but never that young, and so I asked an older, established director for advice.
He said: find a talented kid and then become friends with him. Regardless of how talented he is, he'll get tired fast and he'll be sick of doing it after a few takes. Visit him at home, play with him, make sure that he likes you, so that when you really need that tenth take, you can ask him to do it for you. That's what I did, and it worked!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Recrue/Rebel?
I'd like people to be given food for thoughts on the political side, and to be moved of course. But also the ending is very hopeful, I think, even though it's subtle and subdued. I hope people can see that glimmer of hope.