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37th Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema: Abdellatif Kechiche

French filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche returned to Montreal for FNC’s retrospective on an already burgeoning career behind the camera.

French filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche returned to Montreal (he dropped by for media purposes for the theatrical release of La Graine et le mulet a couple of months earlier) for FNC’s retrospective on an already burgeoning career behind the camera. Over the course of three consecutive days the festival presented his filmography of three films, and last Thursday afternoon Kechiche took part of an “Encounter” with the public where he fielded questions mostly about his process, his style and how he works with his actors and, non-actors. Claude Chamberlain was on hand to present the filmmaker to the crowd.  

Abdellatif Kechiche Claude Chamberlain

Before the soft-spoken, modest and generous French filmmaker exchanged with cinephiles, the moderator first discussed where and then how he caught the filmmaking bug. With Tunisian roots, Kechiche grew up in Nice, and became a fan of films from Jean Vigo. His addiction was fed at his local cinematheque, but early on he didn’t even conceive a career in filmmaking, it didn’t help that here were no film schools in his area. Instead, he got to become a filmmaker via his acting career – notably he started off in André Téchiné 1987 film Les Innocents and most recently had a role in Sorry, Haters. It was with acting where he picked up the “desire to be in more intimate movies” and as they say: the rest is history.

2000’s La Faute à Voltaire won him the Best First Feature award at the Venice Film Festival, and his last two pictures (2003’s Games of Love and Chance (L’Esquive) and La Graine et le mulet) share the distinction of winning the Césars (French equivalent to the Oscars) for Best Film, Best Director and Best Script. He also won four awards at Venice in 2007.   

Abdellatif Kechiche

With a shooting schedule that can last over the course of several months, his free-style, natural flow approach often blends fiction with non-fiction. The filmmaker makes social relevant portraits, and he describes his process as “drowning himself into his creations” and “losing notion of time” when working, this might explain why his films are lengthier than average and perhaps why they all conclude in an abrupt fashion.  

 

In the Fall Movie preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, I saw that there was a December 26th date pegged for La Graine et le mulet. I asked the filmmaker what was the status and he himself has no clue when the film will be released. So, I expect the folks at IFC to release the picture sometime in 2009 and before Kechiche starts filming his fourth feature film in the Spring.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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