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Interview with Lila Pinell, director of Le roi David

Tuesday 25 January 2022, by Abla Kandalaft, Brasserie du Court team

Shana is looking for a job, she needs cash to leave France and her wrong crowd. But the past she’s looking to forget is never far. Besides, does she really want to put it behind her?

What gave you the urge to tell Shana’s story? Are some of the characters drawn from examples or experiences you have had in real life?

I’ve wanted to tell Shana’s story since meeting the actress who plays her, Eva Huaut. I’ve known her since childhood and I’d lost touch with her for 7 years. When we met again, she was 20 and had been through things in her life that were unimaginable to me. I wanted to shoot her daily life, her voluntarism, and the hard time she had getting out of a toxic relationship. The surrounding characters are inspired from the people that she hung out with during that stage of her life.

Why did you choose this title?

Le roi David goes back to the copy of a painting that was in her mother’s house when she was a child. David is also the name of the lover she struggles to forget. Her mother and her boyfriend are the two irreconcilable things she is in conflict with. I wanted the presence of this man to weigh on her throughout the film despite the fact that we never see him and the film is not about him. This omnipresence is felt even in the title of the film, which carries the name of this absent person. He is her obsession.

How did casting take place?

For casting, there are people from Eva’s circle who play in the film. Her friend Sarah, her aunt. For some of the roles, her friends withdrew and we had to find replacements. At that moment, Eva met Anaïs and introduced me to her. We met Charlène and Willy during scouting in Drancy… I offered a role in the film to a friend of mine, Sekouba Doukouré, and he took care of a large part of the casting. He introduced us to a lot of young people from Labec, a collective in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, a laboratory of creation and expression. For Shana’s mother, I thought of one of my friend’s aunts, who has a very strong presence and who had fun playing the role.

How did you work with the actors? Is there an element of improvisation?

I wrote the script with dialogues from the stories that Eva had told me. Then I worked with the actors who improvised and made the text their own. These improvisations were recorded by my assistant Charlotte Buenomo. Then, I rewrote the dialogues based on the recordings, choosing the things I liked.

Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?

Herman Slobbe – L’Enfant Aveugle 2 by Johan van der Keuken. I saw it during my documentary direction studies at Lussas, and before that, I had not seen that many documentaries. I told myself: OK, I can also make films of a personal, subjective and unrestricted nature, and on a small budget. That helped me decide how to proceed from then on.

What’s your definition of a good film?

A good film is a film that surprises me. I have very eclectic taste, but I think that is what all the films I like have in common.

Any message or comments?


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