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"The horrifying is often horrendously funny"

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Jean Libon and Yves Hinant • Directors

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- SAN SEBASTIAN 2017: We met up with Belgian filmmakers Jean Libon and Yves Hinant, whose first feature film, So Help Me God, is competing in the Official Selection at the Basque festival

Jean Libon and Yves Hinant  • Directors
Jean Libon (left) and Yves Hinant (© Montse Castillo/Festival de San Sebastián)

The Belgian documentary Striptease is famous among a French-speaking audience for the naturalistic and almost unedited portraits of its subjects. Jean Libon, one of the two creators of the show, along with Yves Hinant, one of its regular directors, are co-directing the series’ first feature film, So Help Me God [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Jean Libon and Yves Hinant
film profile
]
. The film is in official competition at the 65th San Sebastian Festival. Cineuropa interviewed the creators about their collaboration and the main character, judge Anne Gruwez.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: Could you tell us a little more about the Striptease documentary for our non-francophone readers? What's the link between the show and the film?
Jean Libon & Yves
Hinant: Striptease (ST) was born out of a revelation we had after many years of television. We had two great instruments, a portable camera and a microphone, except that with these two tools, we were creating "filmed radio" or "commentated paintings", that is to say, unassuming fiction. So we decided to throw away the gear and return to raw material, namely images without any commentary, interviews or music. ST became a prime-time monthly TV shown in 1985 in Belgium. In 1992, it was taken on by France 3. The audience proved to be amazing, and was incredibly young for this show in particular.

In 2001 ST became Tout ça (ne nous rendra pas le Congo) due to a lack of staff available to direct the show. With TV media in disarray, sitting somewhere between reality TV and the politically correct, we thought, rightly or wrongly, that this way of looking at society has a rare pertinence. Which is why we're now turning our hand to film. There's a lot of continuity between the big and the small screen.

Despite this being our first feature film, we’ve explored various different TV formats: 15', 30', 52'. At the moment we’re also working on a ten-part TV series.

Why did you choose to focus on judge Anne Gruwez, of all possible subjects, for your first co-directed feature film?
Why Gruwez? We found Madam Justice to be a fascinating, charismatic, and rough and ready character. She was open to this type of experience. She’s fairly free with her thoughts and words and doesn't hold back from expressing herself. She also sees the funny side to things, a rare commodity these days. Above all she's able to make them visible, in daily legal life that’s usually so rigid. To make a film, we also needed a story, stories, and this film is not lacking in them.

How did you find out about the case of Yolanda and Nicole?
It was a cold case that initially remained unresolved, making it a personal matter.

Did you encounter any practical difficulties when filming these cases, particularly in terms of confidentiality or during hearings?
These days there's a certain culture of "the less one shows," "of polishing and putting up a façade." Some amazing precautions must be taken in order to film, which forces you to avoid looking reality in the eye. A "positive" injunction has taken over, which is forcing us to no longer show all sides of society. A certain amount of self-censorship is required, to conform to the politically correct, and we believe that it’s important to show everything, to force the viewer to deal with reality. We focus on the real so that the viewer can make up his/her own mind, and different viewers end up disagreeing with each other, which is so much better! That idea also originated from ST.

Do you think that this is a faithful representation of the Belgian judicial system or are these extreme cases? 
Despite it sounding extraordinary, the film reflects a completely banal reality. What we filmed in Belgium obviously exists everywhere else too. Along with Anne Gruwez, we took the liberty to show it on both the big and small screen. The horrifying is often horrendously funny. It's not cinema, it's worse!

(Translated from French)

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