OLIVIER BOSSON

Meeting with the artist

SAISON VIDEO 2018

WEDNESDAY JUNE 20th 2018 at 6:30PM. EMA / ÉCOLE MUNICIPALE D’ARTS, PLACE DE PICARDIE

(Entrance Félix Adam street). 62200 BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, 03 21 32 26 27.

ecole.arts@ville-boulogne-sur-mer.fr

TROPIQUE

A  farce about globalization

2016, 58 mn

Scenario, realization, conception : Olivier Bosson

Production Offre Spéciale Films & l’Arteppes.

With the help of short film Seine-Saint-Denis Department

With : Eva Hadjal, Solène Georget, Mathilde Pasquier, Clément Portas, Shana Barragan, Nicolas Duret, Elodie Tobé, Raphaël Esposito, Jéromine Salvi, Théo Grapin, Marion Priem, Jonathan Guebey, Khalid Boukamel, Bertrand Ninet, Alexandra Robert, Chloé Tran-Guy, Caroline Gosset et Philippe Wicht

 

The film was made as part of the 2015 artist’s residency at Arteppes, espace d’art contemporain at the Teppes youth centre, Annecy, with the backing of the Rhône Alpes region (FIAC) and the department of Haute Savoie.  It has enjoyed the short-film assistance programme of the department of Seine-Saint-Denis.

Globalization is on the move.  The Metropolis is spreading, surveyors are updating layouts, migrants are landing, and Cédric and Mélissanne Brisset-Clémenti would really like to go and live high up in the mountains.  Everyone is making their film.  There will be sports and fights!  A fiction film shot in the Teppes neighbourhood in Annecy, and in the environs, with 250 actors and extras.  OB

Interview :

TROPIQUE

Going backwards and losing sight of the symbolic dimension

 

Mo Gourmelon:  In 2012, with Nicolas Boone, you presented your film 200% as part of Saison Video 2012.  That participatory fiction film was produced by the Visual Arts Centre in Saint-Fons and filmed in that southern suburb of Lyon.  Early on, that project undertaken by the two of you displayed impressive statistics:  50 actors and 300 extras recruited during auditions, part and parcel of the work.  Tropique was made on your own.  In a determined way it examines the methodology of auditions, casting, rehearsals with actors, and finally the filming.  What changed by continuing that adventure on your own? 

 

Olivier Bosson:  In fact, in relation to 200% there was one less of us, so that means more things to do.  In another respect, I was far from being on my own, because, needless to say, the film was made with a crew.  In any event, there’s a certain continuity.  I really like this format of fiction with lots of characters.  I’m still very enthusiastic about representing society, links, and how everything is connected.  How all desires and all relations are articulated and end up producing what we call reality.  What’s more, the working title Tropique was for a long time:  “La réalité ougandaise” [Ugandan Reality]. 

So what changed between the two films is the fact that I accumulated quite a lot of filming experience.  In particular by making the “Forum des Rêves”, which, for me, was a fiction workshop, a fiction school which helped me a lot in the continuity editing of Tropique.  I felt more at ease.  And then the issues in the two projects are quite similar:  in the “Forum”, the characters share their dreams; in Tropique, we might say that they share their fantasies.  The characters make films for themselves and live in them.  All of a sudden, certain ways of filming crop up in both films, shifts from the subjective shot to the objective shot.

 

A character is accompanied by a somewhat subjective framing—the camera placed on his shoulder, for example—then the character moves forward and enters the field, as if he were moving forward into what he is imagining.

But thinking about it again, the whole plot of 200% is already unfolding in the head of a girl who is learning her highway code and imagines a scene with a car crash.  So, there you have it. 

 

 

MG:  How do these types of projects come about?  200% at Saint-Fons, Tropique as part of a 2015 artist’s residency at arteppes, espace d’art contemporain at the Teppes youth centre in Annecy? 

 

OB:  For 200% we wanted to make a fiction film with suburban inhabitants as the actors.  2010 was a year of clashes between the State and the suburbs, with truly crazy arguments about the suburbs.  Our clear intention was to shift representations and to describe the social order in a different way.  And also to have a rather poetic approach for the film, clearly situated in the art arena, which explains the significant reference to Surrealism, and more precisely to Buñuel’s “The Phantom of Liberty”, which 200% openly echoes.  With the result that to make the film, we contacted art centres located in the suburbs, and Anne Giffon-Selle of the Saint-Fons Visual Arts Centre showed an interest in it and offered us a residency.

 

For Tropique, I knew about arteppes:  a contemporary art organization located within a youth club, so with missions involving popular education, which is not very common, and which prompted me to contact them to propose this film project.  All the more so because, geographically, the Annecy region fitted in nicely with my intentions, the lake, the mountains, elements which shift the story towards the tale. To get back to arteppes, I am well aware of that original configuration of an art centre within a youth club, and its implications.  We know that contemporary art is addressed to an elite, so that structure declares that the elite that interests it is made up of people who spend time at the Teppes youth club.  This is a rather beautiful and daring ambition, running counter to populism.  Here we can recognize a feature of new towns, the experimental side of new towns which personally touches me.  An art centre in the suburbs proposes an encounter between lifestyles, those of contemporary art, and those of the suburbs which share in common the fact that they produce discrepancies in relation to standardized life, based on a predominant model.  My interest is probably recurrent because right now I am preparing a film in the suburbs of Toronto, also with an art centre in the suburbs, the Varley Art Gallery, at Markham. 

 

 

MG:  Within the brief of art centres, focusing on local audiences is something obvious.  I’m talking on the basis of my personal experience in this area.  So the issue of migrants lay at the root of Tropique.  Documentary and fiction films have been shot in the Calais Jungle, where just the name is itself sufficiently evocative.  In them, it is a matter of bearing witness and clashing with minds, and not being satisfied with ignorance.  The media focus on maritime borders.  In your project, the mountain represents a natural border and the last shots of the lake call to mind those television images of dead bodies floating on the surface of the sea.  How has Annecy become the appropriate place?  It’s not necessarily a region one thinks of to evoke flows of migrants.

 

OB:  Annecy has become an appropriate place for many different reasons.  I wanted to talk about the effects of globalization.  From a geographical viewpoint, it’s as if the world had become mountainous.  It becomes folded.  As we can see with the high-speed train, some distances, as the crow flies, are considerably reduced and, between two stations, whole zones become sidelined.  They become inaccessible, like faults, actual holes in the map.  The criterion is less distance than accessibility. 

 

And as it happens, as a complement to flows of human migrants, what interested me is how geography itself moves, and geographical conditions migrate.  In Annecy, the climate is a migrant.  It hardly snowed in the winter of 2014-2015.  So the air pollution became so high that people were discouraged from going jogging below a certain altitude.  Joggers thus took their cars to go and trot around in the pure air of the mountain peaks.  Or further:  in the logic of metropolization people have created—there as everywhere else—a community of communes, which alters the foothold which inhabitants have in their environment.  And especially in the semi-rural peri-urban environment, where people have the unpleasant impression of being caught up by a metropolis which they hate.  There is an extremely high urban tension around Lake Annecy.  There are Front National town halls in almost every small town.  All the more so because Geneva is not far away.  So Genevans come and buy houses there in ever greater numbers, and this is causing property prices to explode.  So there is a property predation with this migratory flow of rich people, and alongside that there are migratory flows of poor people, suburbs with low-rent housing, and then migrants sleeping under bridges. 

 

In any event, this moving geography adds a comical dimension to movements involving identity.  They cling to a territory which is itself changing.  And I wanted to film a tragic-comedy about globalization and its folklore. 

 

And then arteppes is a suburban youth centre, located a few miles from those majestic landscapes with views over the Mont Blanc range.  For the film, the landscape of mountains and lakes is a tremendously powerful setting.  It encompasses things that we find in tales:  the forest into which the hero disappears.  The lake which is a place of redemption.  A narrative geography, in a way.

 

So I was acquainted with arteppes.  And I had the basic outline of the film in mind when I got in touch with Olivier Godeux, to tell him about the project and discuss the possibility of a residency.  Then, to start with, I did some research and location hunting in Annecy, in the summer of 2013, thanks to the support of the production company L’image d’Après.  The residency at arteppes took place the following year, in 2014.  Things became increasingly tangible.  The script took shape.  I wrote it during the residency, based on the various people I interviewed to prepare the film:  estate agents, mediators, psychologists, surveyors, monks, athletes, a photographer of mountains, officials and inhabitants of the Teppes neighbourhood.  So I was involved with Tropique.  But for the next film, Dents de Scie, the circumstances were precisely the opposite.  It was the Saint-Etienne Biennale de Design which invited me and commissioned the film from me.

 

 

MG:  It’s amazing, this open and assumed violence.  First and foremost the javelin in the detail of those ruthless lancers!  Then hiding in the forest and the succession of scores being settled, for a ridiculous reason.

 

OB:  I wanted to film what was driving the characters, the various impulses which go hand in hand with globalization.  And as we can hear in arguments over these past few years, there is not just love.  In the script, I therefore decided to take quite literally expressions such as “putting yourself in migrants’ shoes”, or “making a film”, “going to live high up in the mountains”. 

 

And Annecy is a city where sporting activities are intense and varied:  cycling, orienteering races, throwing the hammer, rowing races, diving without bottles, climbing, and jumping without parachutes, in windsuits!  People here engage in activities for fun, while others do so for their survival.  What is more, I once or twice got the impression of being in a huge training camp.

 

In the film, this produced the savage side of the Decathlon.  The characters are caught in forms of radicalization with regard to sports activities.  If they practice archery, if they throw a javelin, it’s in order to hit someone.  When they run, it’s to catch someone, they chase them.  They go backwards and they lose sight of the symbolic dimension. 

 

MG:  You also use the popular expression, “shitty life”.  How did this part of the film come into being with these three teenagers lazing about beside a lake, to the point of putting up with precariousness and exclusion, the disappearing of a migrant?  It is true that, here too, there is a concretization of imaginary scenes which are akin to the system of the “Forum of dreams”.

 

OB:  We are all more or less confronted with bits of the world which we cannot sum up.  It is an abomination that everyday Syrian prisoners are flayed alive in the prisons of Damascus.  As Serge Daney put it, we are permanently living in a situation of not helping people in danger.  

In the film, I’ve tried to introduce collages of situations.  For that beach scene, there is the beach of the surveyors, the beach of the three teenagers playing truant from school, the beach of the migrants landing in a raft, and the beach with the life guards, who stop them. 

 

Faced with this clash of situations, the three teenagers have very different reactions, somewhere between brutal rejection and empathy; they argue and try to think of what to do.  It’s fiction:  imagining ways of acting, envisaging possible scenarios, and consequences.  Yes, I’m very interested in all these kinds of fictions which anybody can create, in everyday life, to envisage the future, and study possibilities, whether it be here or in dreams.

 

So if we go back to that beach:  there’s Orchidée, aged 13, and her two girlfriends tick her off for being selfish, and being incapable of putting herself in other people’s shoes.  So a bit later on, she will try:  she will put herself in a migrant woman’s shoes.  And the film will carry on with what she imagines.  Then we shift to what other characters imagine, and so on and so forth in an interlocking scenario.  On this topic, I really like Victor Chklovski’s book Sur la théorie de la prose, published by L’âge d’homme, Lausanne, 1973. 

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