Short Film Corner 2022
Forêts / Forests
May 24, 2022
Eastern white pines submerged under the waters of a hydroelectric reservoir on unceded Innu territory transform into flames. This exploration between water and fire illustrates our current climate emergency through multiple stories about the relationship between a community and this land.
Hi Simon, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening, have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?
When the first wave of Coronavirus strike, I realised that I could not pursue the filming of my feature documentary Les yeux ne font pas le regard (The Eyes Don't See), especially because it is shot on three continents. I then realised that I should write something that I could film and produce something spontaneous locally with a small team to keep me creative. After a few months, we shot 'Forests' and I edited on my free time throughout the year so it kept me somehow positive about the near future.
What does it mean for you to be in the Cannes Short Film Corner and part of the Canada: Not Short On Talent section with Forests and what do you hope to take away from this experience?
It is an honour to be part of one of the greatest cinema events of the world this year. I hope to create alliances with sales agents, film programmers, fellow filmmakers and producers who have at heart independent creative filmmaking.
How vital are platforms like Cannes SFC in championing and supporting independent short filmmakers?
I think a platform like Cannes SFC is a great opportunity to make independent short films available to professionals to draw attention on great films that could have passed under the radar otherwise for lack of exposure and financial means.
Can you tell me how Forests came about, what was the inspiration behind this film?
The idea of this film came when I was doing sound on the Manicougan reservoir for Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush an Innu filmmaker. I learned that there is still many trees rooted at about 350 meters deep because they haven't been chopped down before Hydro-Québec decided to flood the territory to make a huge reservoir in order to feed the dam for producing more and more hydroelectricity. I was amazed to know that there are still forests underwater and that not a lot a people know about it because most have a love relation with the nation-state company and do not question its relation own with nature. We also see more and more bush fires in the area, not as devastating as we can see on the West Coast but sill becoming more preoccupying. I wanted to explore a metaphorical evocation of devastating forest fires by avoiding using archival images or filming these destructive events. The evocation of fire goes through the sound treatment.
As a filmmaker how flexible do you allow yourself once you start shooting a new film?
As a filmmaker working mostly with documentary subjects, I have a clear idea of what I am looking for but I always keep my mind, eyes and ears opened because you never know where your film can bring you. Sometimes you need to accept to go in a different direction and discover the unknown.
What is the message you want to convey with Forests and do you think you have achieved this?
This short exploratory documentary immerses us in a mysterious and denatured universe, which allows us to meditate on the impact of the industrialisation of natural resources, in addition to questioning our relationship to the environment. It touches on the themes of the transformation and capitalisation of the forest by the human being, as well as the distancing and disconnection that he maintains with it. 'Forests' attempts to reflect this feeling of strangeness, maintained within this relationship of domination between humans and nature.
Your background in sound is extensive how much has this background helped you are when directing a film?
I always chose consciously or unconsciously subjects that are in relation with sound: open-pit mining town, musicality of languages, loss of sight, etc. The sound always carries a meaning which cannot be expressed by the image. I think my sensibility to sound is coming from my sound and music background and I want to push it in my films because it is too much often left at the last stage of post-production. I want to change the hierarchy and bring sound at the centre of the filmmaking creation.
What would you say have been the biggest challenge you faced bringing Forests to life?
It was to shoot it because of the pandemic restrictions and after to find the right spots to find the trees that are not too deep down the water because of the missing light. I did not want to shoot this with lamps so the natural light was necessary but missing after a few meters down the reservoir. The visibility was also an issue, the waters were troubled, dense and dark. We could not see more than 3 meters in front of us so it made the work of the cinematographer Geoffroy Beauchemin much harder to find the right composition and the right trees to film.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yes, but firstly I was passionate by music and then filmmaking came after.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?
At the beginning I was a bit more militant in my approach to denounce injustices. I think that people are sensible and that emotions can make them change better than a message or a slogan. I believe that the cinematographic language can make people think and act differently if they let themselves plunged into a world that it is not theirs. Make them more sensible about the world they are surrounded by and learn about the other realities. I think that is why I am trying to push the sensory experience a notch further in my last film.
"I think my sensibility to sound is coming from my sound and music background and I want to push it in my films because it is too much often left at the last stage of post-production."
Do you have any tips for create unique and impactful sound on a film?
Be open, explore, try and fail, but follow your guts.
Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Same answer as the previous question.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Forests?
Viewers have to make their own mind, I would not want to tell them what to think but I hope the film would speak by itself otherwise I failed.