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 A Summer Day: growing up in rural France.

Interview by Caroline Planque
posted June 2006

Not all teenagers spend their lives on their cell phone or surfing the net. In Franck Guérin’s film, they kill their boredom by roaming the nearby woods and fields until the accidental death of one of them forces everyone in the community to reexamine their role and relationships to one another. Although Arte has produced the film for French TV, it holds well on the big screen and is touring the globe from one festival to another. Guérin, a long-time documentary director, signs his debut film with Un Jour d’Été (in which Bernard Blancan, who makes a five-minute appearance, was just awarded the award for best actor at Cannes for his role in Indigènes).

- The teenagers in your film are not professional actors; was it harder or easier for you to direct them?
F.G.: In a way, it was easier because they were more malleable; they had a certain naiveté to themselves. But I worked with them the same way as with professional actors. Once someone is in front of the camera, that person becomes an actor. But the task of directing an actor starts way earlier than that. First the director has to meet his characters on paper and then in real life. Then the actors have to meet the character they are about to play.

- What prompted you to write that story?
F.G.: I wanted to tell a story that would take place in a small village, much like the one I grew up in. I also wanted to tell the story of 17-18 year-old teenagers, especially in a small town. Teenagers of that age in a big city are a lot more adult. Not all teenagers are like the ones in “Elephant”. They are not all surfing the net; this is not a universal truth. Even if in big cities, most parents will buy a cell phone to their 18-year old teenagers, it is a lot less common in the countryside. There, teenagers will go knock on each other’s door. I still have a feeling that this French countryside stands back from modernity. I would not call it backwards though.
I also scanned through the accidents that occurred in France with failing equipment on basketball courts or soccer fields, accidents that implied someone else’s responsibility. I enjoyed the idea of putting the blame on the mayor to show how, suddenly, the community transferred its responsibility on a sole individual. But I was most interested in the consequences of the accident in the mayor’s private and intimate life.

- By portraying different social classes, are you trying to initiate some sort of social criticism?
F.G.: No. Obviously I wanted to portray different social classes, but they were all presented in the same light. There is no discourse from my part about the nature of their differences. I am not trying to initiate a discourse of any sort. The film is not completely explicit either. I enjoy letting the spectator ponder and interpret my movie. I enjoy that as a spectator myself, so I want to leave this open for people who will watch my movie. I enjoy ambiguity, unspoken words, and confusion. I want to leave things open.

- One can feel that especially through the character of Sébastien.
F.G.: His character is inhabited by hesitation. What is interesting is to notice that, because of his best friend’s death, this hesitation, which was his since the beginning, finally reveals itself and suddenly allows him to live. This is one of the movie’s ambiguities: in a way, Sébastien finds himself liberated because of Mickaël’s death.


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