Aude Léa Rapin is a screenwriter and a director who graduated from La Fémis’ screenwriting course. She first directed two documentaries before moving on to fiction short films with The Strand (La Météo des plages).
Her debut feature film, Heroes Don’t Die (Les héros ne meurent jamais), recently at the 58th La Semaine de la Critique in Cannes. It tells the story of a group of friends who travel to Bosnia in search of answers following a strange interaction on the streets of Paris.
Q: I heard the initial idea for this story came from an encounter you had on the streets Paris. Can you expand on that and the genesis of this story?
A: I met a man who had found an original way to make money. He invented names and lives for people passing by him. He hoped to get a few seconds of attention, that people would stop and take the time to listen to his stories. I saw him as a kind of preacher. As if he and I were doing the same job of trying to interest people with stories. He offered me the starting point of this film.
Q: Why did you chose Bosnia as the setting for much of the film?
A: I chose Bosnia because I wanted to immerse this story of reincarnation in a country haunted by the ghosts of a recent war. It’s what fuelled my desire to write and film this story.
Q: What was your mentality and energy like going into your first feature? And how does that translate in the story?
A: There really was, for me, the desire to continue the gesture that I started with my three short films. I wanted a first feature film that was very free and without the heaviness of the industry.
I have not been to school to learn cinema, my experiences, one after the other so far have been my school. This film marks a kind of cape, the one that I needed to cross to feel allowed to leave the posture of the student!
Q: You’ve worked with Jonathan Couzinié and Antonia Buresi before on short films. How important was it for you to have these familiar and trustworthy collaborators on your first feature?
A: They have accompanied me both since the beginning and allowed me to gradually find my method of work, my philosophy too. They are actors capable of coming out of written dialogues, of taking hold of the stakes and the responsibility of incarnation. They do not just play, they really live the adventure with me. They have been valuable partners, allies.
Q: Adèle Haenel is familiar to UK audiences from films such as ‘The Unknown Girl’ and ‘120 BPM’. What did she bring to this project?
A: She brought her passion and her generosity to participate in a film with very little funding. She had no reason to make this film apart from a belief and envy. She brought a lot of confidence and experience in this collaboration.
Q: What is your favourite memory from working on the film and with these three actors?
A: I think filming them as a whole has been a very rich experience for me. We only had few days of filming, which made the whole thing very intense. All three of them were very involved and eager for the film to be successful and that it would reflect the quality of the adventure that we lived by shooting it.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of making this first feature?
A: We shot in the Srebrenica genocide cemetery during the ceremony that takes place once a year. It’s a huge burial. The bodies of the victims of the 1995 massacre are still buried today. Those found every year in the mass graves around Srebrenica.
Driving a fictional film into a real scenery – where the crowd around us was not at all composed of extras but rather survivors of the genocide – was an extremely special experience.
Q: And the most rewarding?
A: I felt a sense of collective with all of those who lived this shoot. The collaboration with Bosnian actors as well as with my French team. Thanks to this film I have found a technical team to support me in the future.
Q: How was your recent experience at Cannes?
A: It was the first time I’ve been to Cannes. I was both amazed and troubled. It’s intense to be there, at once so rich and brutal.
Q: Can you tell us more about your background and what led you to filmmaking?
A: I have an atypical career, I stopped my studies at the age of 18 years. I tried to train myself in journalism but I was not at all in my place. Then I did photography and video for humanitarian associations in the Balkans and Africa – I made documentaries. I travelled a lot and this experience of contemplating the lives of others gave me, five years ago, the desire and the strength to tell my own stories.
Q: What is next for you? What type of films would you like to make in the future?
A: This time I would like to go to a real ghost film, continuing the step by step process to a genre film.