LN: Freda made her grand premiere at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Remind us of the course and the winners of the film since July.
I can’t count the number of festivals in which the film has participated. But I can quickly tell you some of the awards the movie got. In addition to the Special Discovery mention of the François Chalais prize at the 74th edition of the Cannes International Film Festival, Freda was awarded two prizes in France at the Festival Paysages de cinéastes (grand jury prize and audience prize), two prizes at the Namur International Francophone Film Festival (FIFF) (Belgium), namely the Discovery Award and the Audience Award. We also had the Silver Standard for Best Film and Best Sound at the 27th edition of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival (Fespaco) in Ouagadougou, but also the prize for best TV5 Quebec-Canada film at the 27th edition of the CINEMANIA Film Festival.
LN: Freda, is it a film produced and directed in Haiti with Haitian means and actors or from the start an international film with the means of world cinema?
No, not at all with the means of world cinema. Otherwise, mt ap bèl tifi kounye a (laughs). It may be a big budget compared to what Haitian films in general spend, but it is a very small compared to world cinema. Besides, we were the film with the smallest budget in Cannes. In addition, I believe that there is a Haitian film which has already had roughly the same budget as us, it was “La Rebelle”. Freda is a film made with Haitian actors and Haitian technicians mainly, even if there are still five French technicians working on it. But for the budget, it’s really not a big budget at all.
LN: Was deciding to make this film a risky bet?
Yes, as long as it’s my first feature film. Even though I have worked a lot as an actress, I cannot know, as a director, if my outlook on people, my way of telling a story will be understood. I’m the one who wrote the screenplay, I’m the director, so that means it’s a very personal writing. Therefore, we cannot know in advance whether people will like it or not; whether this is going to make sense to others or not. I had to trust my intuition. In fact, if I listened to people, maybe I wouldn’t have made this movie. There were a lot of commissions reading the script and saying no. They weren’t sure that this scenario could make a good movie or even a successful movie. People thought it was too special, because the way I woven the characters, the story, is unique to me. Those are the reasons people didn’t fund me, but I really wanted to have cinematic writing that was very personal. I wished, in any case, that there was at least my personal gaze as a director in this film, even if that could seem atypical.
LN: So what made you decide to get started?
Anyway, I was going to make the movie. But I think that in large part, my producer Jean Marie Gigon motivated me a lot. He supported me so much. He believed in me so much that when everyone said he didn’t understand anything, he always understood. At one point, I felt like I was going crazy. Because when several people read and they say no to you, they do not understand, it can make you think that you are the problem and make you question everything or not do anything more. But when you find someone you trust, who you know who is experienced who tells you, of course, it’s very clear, you say to yourself that maybe people doubt because they don’t know you yet as professional, not because the scenario really has a problem. He really helped me in that sense. It was my first reader.
How are the preparations going for the 2022 Oscars? Are you going to be able to make the leap from successful film to nominated film?
My God, I don’t know. But we are doing everything to make it happen. It’s a fight. The Oscar race is a real campaign. A bit like election campaigns, with a smaller budget and a smaller reach, but it’s a bit like that. You have to call people, you have to do reports, do screenings for the members of the Academy of Oscars, make sure that the film is actually being talked about. Because not everyone can vote. Only members of the academy can. So when I tell people to put # fredaoscars2022 on the internet it can help. It might not allow us to win, but it can create a buzz around the film and allow members of the academy to be affected.
Freda, since its release, has been one of the few good news about Haiti in the international press. How do you experience this success?
It is certainly a success, but I do not see it only as such. But I see it much more as a lifeline. People are doing everything to drown us in this country. We are in a period where there is almost nothing. Apart from art, literature, there is very little that is worth the effort. So if Freda can be this little thing that allows us to hang on or bring us a little spark of hope… If Freda can help people to take another look at Haiti, it is the most beautiful thing that can happen to us.
With two award-winning films at international festivals, some would say you know the formula for winning over an international audience. What is your secret as a director?
I don’t know if I know the secret. However, I would say that there is only one thing, as cliché as it may sound, that matters a lot, and that is staying true to yourself, trusting your intuition. All stories have their merit. The main thing is that they are accurately told. So even when people say it’s not universal, you don’t have to worry too much about it, because everything about humans is universal. When people try to make you believe that your experience is not worth much, it is a big lie, because everything that concerns humans is universal. Besides, people also pose the problem of language. I say that all people can travel the world in their native language. Of course, you can add the surtitles to allow people to understand, but besides, the language is not a block that can prevent people from immersing themselves in your story. I don’t know, I couldn’t tell Freda in another language than ours.
LN: Freda just got the support of Francis Ford Coppola. How did it go ? What does this bring to the film? What form will this support take?
It was very difficult. But luckily it happened. What happened is that David Belle, who is the founder of Ciné Institute, had been put in contact with Francis Ford Coppola about fifteen years ago. The latter supported the opening of Cine Institute because he knows the history of Haiti well. So even though they weren’t friends, at least they had that connection. David Belle said we had to show him the movie. We are looking for people to endorse the film. Having Coppola wasn’t guaranteed, but we tried anyway. We wrote to several people. Most of them did not respond. Some responded but were not available to view. And Francis Ford Coppola, he, for one reason or another, when we finally found him after several tries, gave his ok to view. He hadn’t promised anything. He watched the movie. And the next day, it was he who decided to support not only the film which had made a great impression on him, but also to do so publicly through Deadline, one of the biggest magazines in the world of cinema in Hollywood.
This support will take whatever form we want. He is so attached to the film that he told us that he would do everything in his power to make this film go further. What is already the most interesting is that the news has exploded in the professional Hollywood world. This is the second time in his career that Mr. Coppola has supported a film publicly. It gives even more importance to this gesture. In addition, it has been a long time since he intervened very rarely in the press … so it’s really a gift from heaven, what! So far, I can’t believe it. Francis Ford Coppola is still a god of cinema, what!
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Freda covets the 2022 Oscars