Filmmakers discuss the crossover between documentary and fiction

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As the boundaries of cinema become ever more fluid, emerging filmmakers whose films have been selected for the Cannes Film Festival have discussed their journey from documentary to fiction in the Cannes Docs sidebar of the Cannes Market.

Organized by the Documentary Assn. from Europe, the panel brought together on Sunday the Ukrainian director Maksym Nakonechnyi, the director of the Un Certain Regard title “Butterfly Vision”, and Erige Sehiri (“Railway Men”), the Tunisian director of “Under the Fig Leaves”, who had his world premiere in the box of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.

The titles are fictional debuts for Nakonechnyi and Sehiri, who are both experienced documentarians.

Inspired by the conflict in Ukraine’s Eastern Donbass region that has been going on since 2014, “Butterfly Vision” is the story of a young Ukrainian soldier who returns home after being held captive for months and discovers that she is pregnant. after being raped by her Russian caretaker.

Nakonechnyi, whose credits include Alina Gorlova’s acclaimed documentary “This Rain Will Never Stop” as writer and producer, co-wrote the screenplay with filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk (“The Earth Is Blue Like an Orange”) . “Butterfly Vision” was produced by Tabor, the company he started with a group ofItalian filmmakers in 2015.

“When we started making films, we didn’t know if we should do fiction or documentaries,” he explained. “It was 2015 and events in our country started to evolve, and we came across these stories that needed to be told and shown. The only principle in both fiction and doc is that both begin with a story you feel you need to tell.

While Nakonechnyi was formally trained in film school, Sehiri’s path to filmmaking was different: starting as a journalist, she experimented with cameras during the Tunisian revolution in 2011 and naturally turned to documentaries. . She called on Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni (“Ghosthunters”, “Fix Me”), who became her mentor. But, she said, the desire to mMaking fiction films was never far away.

“I always dreamed of making fiction, from the start. When I started in documentaries, it was more accessible: all you need is a camera and yourself. Making documentaries was important to build my vision, form my vision [of filmmaking],” she says.

“Under the Fig Tree” may be his first fiction novel, but the line between fiction and documentary is blurred. The story of young fruit pickers working the summer harvest in the Tunisian countryside, it was shot with a non-professional cast on what Sehiri describes as a documentary budget.

“I was worried [the low budget] would be visible. I thought my film might not go to major festivals because it would look like a documentary,” she said.

Her response to this was to seek as much professional advice and support as possible.

“Early on in the process, I showed the footage to a sales agent – ​​I’d never done that before: it’s about communicating with people in the industry. The Luxbox sales agent liked it. Then we made a first cut, concluded the deal with the salesman and the co-producers: it helps not to be alone.

Throughout the post-production process, film festivals also provided Sehiri with the help and exposure she needed, including the Final Cut event at the Venice Film Festival where she won eight post-production awards. production in 2021.

A favorable environment maintained within the documentary film industry also helped Nakonechnyi to get his first fiction film off the ground: “I met all the co-producers of my film at Eurodoc [a training program for producers with documentary projects in the development stage]. I knew they would handle the project, the submissions were done by a Croatian team, the mastering by the Swedes, and I just knew there would be good exposure for the film,” he said.

Cannes Docs takes place within the framework of the Cannes Film Market until May 25th.

Cannes documentary panel
Credit: Lise Pedersen

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