Boris Lojkine • Director of Camille
"Camille is me"
- French filmmaker Boris Lojkine tells us about his second feature, Camille, revealed in Locarno and distributed in France by Pyramide
After Hope [+see also:
interview: Boris Lojkine
film profile], well received in Critics’ Week in Cannes in 2014, French filmmaker Boris Lojkine returns to the heart of Africa with Camille [+see also:
interview: Boris Lojkine
film profile], telling through fiction the story of the bright, moving and tragic destiny of young photojournalist Camille Lepage. Produced by Unité de Production and revealed on the Piazza Grande at Locarno, the film is released in French cinemas today by Pyramide.
Cineuropa : When did you first hear about Camille Lepage and why did you decide to make a film about her story?
Boris Lojkine: Sadly, I learned about her when she died, when her picture was in the newspapers on 12 May 2014. I was struck by her youthful face, her wide smile which was in such sharp contrast with the crisis in the Central African Republic. Then, at the International Festival of Photojournalism “Visa pour l’image”, I was stunned by the power of the pictures taken in the Central African Republic and by the rare access to violence which the journalists were given there and were talking about. I then remembered the story of the death of Camille Lepage. I read a lot about her, I looked at her pictures, but what really convinced me was an interview she had given to PetaPixel, in which she was describing her everyday life in South Sudan where she had been before going to the Central African Republic: the little house she lived in with a woman from South Sudan in a suburb expats never usually go to, how she traveled around with her little motorcycle, how she didn’t want to be a war reporter who just goes from conflict to conflict because what interested her was being close to people, and managing to find a real relationship with the people she worked with. I could really connect to all of this and so I said, let’s go!
How do you adapt such a tragic destiny to fiction?
I visited her family because, from a moral perspective, if I couldn’t make the film with their trust, I wasn’t going to make it at all. Camille’s mother then gave me all her contacts and I was able to meet all the people who had known Camille. This was the raw material of the script, a very rich documentary approach which allowed me to represent Camille rather accurately: I met people who told me about her life in Angers but also in South Sudan and in the Central African Republic, anecdotes, what she was like, how she worked, what she wanted. It took me a lot of time to transform her life into a quest and to impose a lot of fiction, because none of the secondary characters in the film are pure and simple copies of real people, even if all are inspired by real elements. The most important thing was that Camille’s journey had to have a certain kind of simplicity, that it had to make sense, and that, through the group of students from the Central African Republic, we would be able to tell the whole story of the crisis of their country, with the students representing different facets of the conflict. We had three elements of truth as safeguards: first of all, we wanted to always respect Camille, and not talk rubbish about her or turn her into something she was not; secondly, we didn’t want to betray the job of photojournalism and we tried to be accurate in its representation, almost like a documentary (showing how photojournalists work, how they sell their pictures, the work editing pictures, the questions which photojournalists ask themselves in the field); and finally, we wanted to respect the history of the Central African Republic, because I hate films which use Africa just as background decor.
How did you approach Camille’s idealism regarding the realities of war journalism?
Camille is unique. Her experience, especially her experience of war and violence, does not make her cynical, and that is what sets her apart from her colleagues who have toughened up with time and have gotten used to keeping their distance from that violence. Camille maintains her idealism with her desire to go beyond the demarcations black/white and photographer/subject. She tries to go to the other side, to create a connection. But the film does not give a message, and it does not give answers: I let viewers free to form their own opinions.
Camille’s quest for humanity echoes your work on Hope. You seem to share similar values.
Camille is me. Of course, she is very different from me, but I also need to go to the ends of the earth to find my place, to give meaning to my work. As a director, I ultimately embrace her quest in the film and my camera ultimately becomes hers. All the film is about, is the way we look at people and the links that can be created between us and them.
(Translated from French)
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