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July 1, 2022



France: Director makes action film with itinerant Roma

22.3.2015 21:28, (ROMEA)
A Romani campsite on the outskirts of Paris in 2006. (PHOTO:   Lukáš Houdek)
A Romani campsite on the outskirts of Paris in 2006. (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)

French director Jean-Charles Hue has long been involved in making films about an itinerant Romani family in France. His third feature-length film once again features several time-tested representatives of this community in a movie that combines the action thriller genre with stylistic elements of film noir.

The film, called "Eat Your Bones" (Mange tes morts), is being screened at the 22nd annual International Film Festival, Febiofest, in the Czech Republic. "I got to know these people 18 years ago, when I was tracking down my own family. My great-grandfather was a traveling Rom. The members of this family welcomed me with open arms," Hue said yesterday at a press conference in Prague about his film, in which a clear, Western-style conflict between good and evil drives a 15-year-old away from the Catholic faith and toward the criminal background of his entire itinerant clan.  

The dark side of the story is represented by the protagonist's older brother, who comes home after 15 years in prison. It is not only about crime and punishment, but also about finding spiritual freedom.

The film oscillates between the detective and Western genres, using the dynamic elements of a contemporary thriller production. "This is their real life - what we filmed is what they have actually experienced, but the world has greatly changed even since then. I don't know if this story could take place today," Hue said.

The director said that while there is no equivalent Romani group in the Czech Republic, hundreds of thousands of people from such itinerant groups live in France. One of these groups is the Yenish, who are light-skinned.

Hue explained that while this group adopted the Romani travelling lifestyle, its members do not speak Romani, but an older variety of German. "Filming was demanding - several times the production came almost completely to a halt," the director said.  

According to Hue, the approach taken by the French Government toward itinerant groups frequently changes depending on whether a left-wing or right-wing administration is in power. While the Yenish have become a part of France, there are still difficulties with Romani people and the perception of the Romani world often changes.

"We have a tendency to create a sort of globalized society. If someone wants to live differently, it's not as possible now as it used to be," the director said.

Jean-Charles Hue was born in 1968 in the French town of Eaubonne near Paris. In addition to film direction, he is involved in multimedia work and in sculpture.

The main theme explored in his art is the transformation of identity, as both his feature-length and short films demonstrate. His most recent film, "Eat Your Bones", premiered at the international film festival in Cannes and won the prestigious Jean Vigo Prize in 2014 for best young filmmaker.  

"Eat Your Bones" is almost a documentary revealing the life of contemporary itinerants among their battered BMWs and caravans in France. It is not, however, a documentary, as the director wrote the entire screenplay.

Hue is said to have explained to the actors what each scene was about and to have then let them improvise. The film will be available on general release in theaters throughout the Czech Republic through the Artcam distribution company on 2 April. 

Irena Eliášová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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