Interview: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne for Tori and Lokita

The element that set the film in motion was our desire to tell a story of friendship between these two children. »

A scene from the movie Tori and Lokita – House 4:3

The Dardenne brothers are among the most esteemed filmmakers on the planet. With movies like Rosetta, the child, Lorna’s Silence and Young Ahmadthey’ve won two Palme d’Ors and virtually every award imaginable at Cannes.

They offer with Tori and Lokita an excursion into the daily life of an African child and teenager in exile in Belgium, having to deal with the underworld in order to obtain their residence papers. sat down with the bros ahead of this remarkable feature…

Why are you interested in this subject?

Jean-Pierre Dardenne : There are press articles that we have read about the situation of exiled and unaccompanied children in Europe. There are thousands of them who disappear every year and many disappear into mafia networks because they hope to get their papers through that system. Then we worked on the beginning of a screenplay about ten years ago. A mother had to return to the country, to Cameroon, and she said to her two children “If you do not want to die, you have to stay together”.

Faced with this dark subject, there are these two kids who remain dignified, trying to find solutions, legal or not, to stay together. Faced with a world that is less and less human, do we have to remain united, empathetic and value this tender and invincible friendship?

JDP: Yes. I would say that the element that set the film in motion was our desire to tell a story of friendship between these two children. That’s really what helped us build the story, what animated us during the construction of the film. This story of friendship was our engine and we hope that it also became the engine of the film.

Luc Dardenne : That’s what we also wanted to do a little with the drawings, the music: it’s to allow them to escape this contemporary destiny that they know and in which they are caught.

As often in your cinema, your heroes and heroines are linked to the world of childhood and adolescence. Why this choice? To remind you that it’s not all over yet?

JPD: Yes, there is what you say. It’s certain. But it’s also that we put children in adult situations. They have to react in an adult world. Normally, children need minimal protection if they want to flourish and grow. There, they have to react like adults who are 30 or 40 years old. There is this tension that interests us. It’s also a different way of looking at the world. We look at the world at the level of the eyes of the two children.

Once again, you are using non-professional actors. How did you find Pablo Schils and Joely Mbundu and, above all, form a chemistry between them?

LD: To find them, we did a casting. We saw a hundred people. We made them sing, we made them play certain scenes. They were both great. But it’s true, the question is that they don’t know each other. They will have to play together like friends, brothers and sisters. We always rehearse more or less a month before shooting. That’s where we created the chemistry, the bond between them.

With Tori and Lokitayou go back a bit to the film noir you explored with The unknown girlin addition to testing the adventure film which is a first for you…

JPD: Tori is adventure film and Lokita is film noir, suspense. Tori has the petite body of an adventurer. He sneaks in, he crosses the pipes, he hides in a car… But we don’t say to ourselves “Hey, we’re going to go and ogle the side of genre films, adventures and dark films of which we don’t have ‘besides not all the codes to play with’. It’s not part of our approach. All this is for an internal necessity to the story.

Since you have been making films, do you feel that the world is improving or, on the contrary, it is deteriorating, giving you plenty of subjects to deal with?

JPD: I would say both, General. There are things that deteriorate. It’s terrible what’s happening to our democracy, why we choose these people to represent us, whether or not we share their ideas. Democracy is good. We can discuss, societies and situations are complicated. And then there is a desire on the part of a certain number of people to say “No, it’s all simple”. These people are doing great damage. When we see Trump in the United States, the war in Ukraine, what is happening in Italy and Sweden… It makes me a little desperate. I have the impression that we learn nothing in the end. It’s a bit sad.

LD: To give a positive note, I would say that there are still things that are no longer possible. For example, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to forcibly return migrants to Rwanda by plane. But they were migrants who were not Rwandans! Europe banned, while they have Brexit. That’s a good thing. The plane could not take off. But he was ready. I think we still have to keep fighting.

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Interview: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne for Tori and Lokita