Cinefest 2016. Short Talk with Mickaël Schapira Villain 

At this year’s edition of Jameson Cinefest in Miskolc, Hungary, Yellow Bread talked to the French director Mickaël Schapira Villain about his first short film, “Incomplete”.

Can you talk about your background?

Mickaël Schapira Villain: I’ve been working in animation for almost 10 years now. I’ve been writing for quite a while at the same time, though, but until Incomplete came up, I’d never had a chance to actually bring a project to the end – the only film I had directed so far being a music video, back in 2010.

“Incomplete” is your first short film and it was part of a screenplay competition organized by the GREC and the Cinematheque of Grenoble involving 5×2 mins by the same author and set in the same space. Your film tackles 5 individuals with different disabilities, namely the impossibility to talk, touch, smell, hear and live. What made you decide to make the film about this particular subject?

M.S.V.: Because of its very conceptual “5×2” limitations, the competition offered me a way to tackle this particular subject in a quite new way. That is, it allowed me to try and test different, and hopefully subtle, perspectives on a rather tricky subject matter, through five different, yet connected, slices of life.

Can you talk about your film?

M.S.V.: My five characters all have to deal with situations that are directly, rather tightly connected to their own disabilities, and each reacts in his, or her, own way. The angst of a father-to-be thus finds some kind of an inverted echo in the optimism and pugnacity of an old man trying to overstep his incoming deafness, for instance… Just as the sheer helplessness of a comatose youngster mirrors the ignorance of a disabled nurse. It’s as if some type of underlying bond actually connected all these characters throughout the ages.

For you, what is it really about?

M.S.V.: Indeed, the movie is obviously one that deals with disabilities, and the way one has to accept them – or at the very least deal with them –, but each of its segments also offers its own underlying theme and conflict. For instance, young Arthur goes from the quite childish dream of being a superhero to the acknowledgement of a growing, painful, almost adult love, initiating his puberty by questioning his own condition. While on the other end, nurse Eugénie seems to have lost her right to a fair treatment at the very moment she lost her sense of smell : decisions are made for her, prompting her to become a secondary character in her own story. Quite a series of different themes and stakes are actually dealt with in these ten minutes…

Why did you choose precisely these five sensations? Why did you leave “to see” out?

M.S.V.: Actually, the first draft of the screenplay had the last part of the film dealing with the actual lack of sight. To tell you the truth, I even played with the idea of an entirely black segment for a while. But, as the writing process moved on, I decided to go and push the concept even further: the young man can’t do anything but hear, which forces him to basically guess and, literally, picture everything that’s going on around him. In a way, then, “to see” is still present in the movie.

What was the shooting process like?

M.S.V.: Stressful as hell: the whole cast and set were different every day, which means we couldn’t afford to be late – or the very segment of a given day would then have to be abandoned… But the crew proved to be amazing, and the actors were wonderful, which transformed this constant, heavy tension into a real excitement.

What is your opinion on short film?

M.S.V.: I just love short films. This may well be due to my background in animation, where we regard short films with the utmost respect. Too often are short movies considered as mere steps towards proper features – mind you, there’s a good reason for this, since directors can’t be trusted with millions of euros before they can actually prove what they’re made of… Yet, short films should truly be considered as art works in their own rights. For instance, I probably love Tim Burton’s Vincent at least as much as I do love his Edward Scissorhands. After all, no one judges the quality of a book according to its size, right? Some great stories actually beg for a short treatment – in which case you shouldn’t hesitate, and go straight for a short film, even if you’ve already directed features! In the end, the only real, true problem concerning short films is their absolute lack of visibility – that is, as far as popular, massive audiences are concerned. They’re incredibly difficult to find outside of specialized festivals or rare, late TV shows…

What are your next projects?

M.S.V.: I’m currently writing my next short film, but it is still way too early to reveal anything at all about it. And I’ll be trying my luck co-writing a short series very quickly – I can’t wait to see how it goes…


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