Locarno 2019: An Interview With ‘Twelve Thousand’ Director Nadège Trebal

French filmmaker Nadège Trebal joins us on Close-up Culture to preview the premiere of her first narrative feature, Twelve Thousand (Douze Mille), at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival.

The film follows Frank (played by Arieh Worthalter) who, after losing his illegal job, thinks Maroussia (Nadège Trebal) won’t love him anymore and leaves to make as much money as she does: 12,000, just what it takes to last for a year.

Q: Twelve Thousand’ will premiere at the Locarno Film Festival. How are you feeling about bringing your film to this prestigious festival?

A: Presenting my film at Locarno is an immense pleasure and honour! I have always loved the spirit and the audacity of this festival, with films from authors from all over the world, it is a dream to be part of this programme.

Q: You met trade unionist and industrial workers while working on your documentaries ‘Bleu Pétrole’ and ‘Scrap Yard’. How much did these interactions influence ‘Twelve a Thousand’?

A: During these documentary shoots, I met many men, often exiles, far from their families, deprived of their intimacy, who came to work at all costs in these industries. These men are full of fiction because they move through these inordinate decors, their labour power, their desires, their melancholy, they have always appeared to me as universal and contemporary heroes, and this inspired the character of Frank.

Q: Frank has to leave his partner, Maroussia, and journey out on his own in the film. Can you tell us about Frank’s journey and what it explores?

A: Frank hits the road of a world at war, in the process of deindustrialization, from which work seems to have disappeared. His odyssey allows him to measure himself against the world and to find a place there, to repair his own image. Like every odyssey, this inner journey is necessary for him to return to his love, Maroussia.

Arieh Worthalter in ‘Twelve Thousand’

Q: I’ve seen some touching clips of Frank and Maroussia together. It reminded me of the characters at the start of David Lowery’s ‘A Ghost Story’. What was it like working with Arieh Worthalter and capturing this intimacy?

A: I don’t know this David Lowery’s movie yet.

I wanted to plunge into the heart of an incandescent, but prevented, love that is showered by the frigid violence of the world as it is. Hence the need for it to burn between Frank and Maroussia.

The intimacy of work that we built for weeks with Arieh, him as an actor and me as a director, nourished us to find that warmth, that zest, that understanding. Dance too, with all the rehearsals we’ve had, has made us partners, a couple with a history, a past, a language of our own.

Q: This is your first time directing narrative feature. How did you find the experience of directing and acting in a feature?

A: It was both a pleasure and a gauntlet – with many dangerous jumps to cross over. The joy of directing this story to its end, keeping the necessary distance and at the same time, feeling it from the inside, was a rollercoaster! But I think it’s the least you can do, right, when you’re making a movie?

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this film?

A: Desire and anger. I wish that Frank and Maroussia can inspire us, that they can amaze us, like a dream of crazy love that can carry us and hurt us, that can frighten us for them, and that our anger can then rise against this injustice and this hostile world that forces them to separate.

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