“We are happy and honored that we have been chosen by France,” says producer Christophe Barral, whose movie “Saint Omer,” directed by Alice Diop, has been selected as the country’s official entry for Best International Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. “France can be a bit conservative in the movie that it chooses, so we’re very happy to have the first Black female director to represent France. It changes the representation in France of who should be making cinema and it’s giving hope to a lot of people.”
We talked with Barral and his co-producer Toufik Ayadi as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022/2023 awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Saint Omer” from Super Neon follows Rama (played by Kayije Kagame), a novelist who attends the trial of Laurence Coly (played by Guslagie Malanda) at the Saint-Omer Criminal Court to use her story to write a modern-day adaptation of the ancient myth of Medea, but things don’t go as expected.
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“[Alice] always says that a movie cannot change the world, but a movie can change a spectator,” Barral adds about their director. “It’s important that in the period after the COVID battle, winning spectator by spectator is the way we want to go.”
Ayadi explains how the producers came to work with Diop after meeting her eight years ago. “We saw a documentary from Alice and when we saw this movie, we saw cinema. After we called her, we took a coffee. When you meet someone like Alice, something happens between a producer and a director. There’s an imminent energy and a desire to try and create something together. At that moment we had the desire to move towards fiction, which we did with our first docu-fiction project called ‘Towards Tenderness,’ which was going to allow her to keep her marks in documentary and move towards more fictional feature.”
Barral says of Diop’s filmmaking style in “Saint Omer,” “I think it’s a very complex process. Alice says there is fiction in documentary and documentary in fiction. That’s how she starts her process. We did one year of casting, but she had an intuition. It was the same thing for the shots. They were really influenced by paintings. It was a long process in how they look for scenes and how to get there. It’s something that grew inside Alice and when she came on the set she felt that’s the way she wanted to do it, but it was not conscious before that.”
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