Interview with Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau and Yannick Nolin, directors of Belle River
Monday 14 February 2022, by
Belle River is a film about Louisiana and its peaceful inhabitants, both threatened with extinction by the emergence of the climate crisis.
How interested are you in the issue of climate change and do you plan on making more films on this topic?
The issue of climate change concerns all three of us, and we expect it will be part of our future work at different levels. Given the upcoming upheavals, it will be hard to avoid the issue, even if it is just in the background of our future narratives. Afterwards, there are a thousand and one ways to address a topic like this and we’re sure we will evolve in our work without seeming to repeat ourselves or sinking into some form of didacticism!
What specifically made you want to shoot in this region?
Obviously the landscapes. But also the culture. The language. The history. The music. The Acadian identity. Belle River is the third part of a documentary trilogy that we shot in Louisiana. If the first part of our trilogy (Laissez les bons temps rouler) focused on the past and the Cajun culture, and the second part had its focus on the present (Acadiana), we could say that this final part opens a window on the expected future of these quiet men and women, who were amongst the first victims of the climate crisis in the United States. Past, present and future of a threatened yet always resilient people. How inspiring!
How did you proceed with the interviews and how much of the footage did you keep?
We met our characters a bit by chance, thanks to the advice and help of friends of friends, if you will. Through these fortuitous encounters, we immediately recognized that they were good-hearted people whose story we wanted to tell through our film. Because it is a short film, we only kept about 10-15% of the interviews. Another edit would have resulted in a completely different film. This is the challenge of the documentary. As long as you don’t betray your characters or the essence of their words, it’s a fascinating exercise of building something on a foundation of reality.
In your opinion, to what point does the abandonment of these people by the public authorities condemn them to death, and are there still young people who live in the area?
We don’t think these people are condemned to death. At least, not any more than anyone else on this planet! The Cajuns are survivors. This quality is written into their identity as it is in their history. Even if their land disappeared one day, we can always hope they will find a way to survive, even without the help of the authorities. Mutual help, faith, and resilience are all buoys or engines that will enable them to be part of the future of our world.
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
Guillaume: There are many! Voisins (1952) by Norman McLaren. La Jetée (1962) by Chris Marker. The Big Shave (1967) by Martin Scorsese. Autobiographical Scene Number 6882 (2005) by Ruben Östlund. Next Floor (2008) by Denis Villeneuve. Bleu tonnerre (2015) by Philipp David Gagné and Jean-Marc E. Roy. More recently, Madre (2017) by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. Retouch (2017) by Kaveh Mazaheri. Min Börda (2017) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr. Tesla : lumière mondiale (2017) by Matthew Rankin. Excess Will Save Us (2018) by Morgane Dziurla-Petit. Swatted (2019) by Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, etc…
Samuel: Fauve (2018) by Jérémy Comte.
Yannick: Le Temps des bouffons (1985) by Pierre Falardeau. Next Floor (2008) by Denis Villeneuve. Pharmakon (2020) by Jean-Martin Gagnon.
What’s your definition of a good film?
Honesty. Dishonest proposals rarely, if ever, make good films.