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Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Joan Chemla — “If You Saw His Heart”

“If You Saw His Heart”

Joan Chemla is a director who decided to dedicate herself to filmmaking after an initial stint in law. She has helmed three short films: “Mauvaise Route,” “Dr Nazi,” and “The Man with the Golden Brain.” “If You Saw His Heart,” starring Gael García Bernal and Marine Vacth, is her first feature film. It was workshopped at Tiff’s Talent Lab several years ago and will compete in the Platform Section.

“If You Saw His Heart” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

Jc: “Lonely people in a troubled word.” That’s the Tiff’s description, not mine. But I think it captures it nicely.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

Jc: Three things: Guillermo Rosales’ book “Boarding Home,” which is at the same time tragic, absurd, romantic, lyrical, and shot through with black humor. The certitude that Gael García Bernal [who plays Daniel] was my hero. And lastly, Marine Vacth, with whom I’d worked four years ago on one of my short films, “The Man with the Golden Brain.”

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

Jc: That this film is like no other.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Jc: To make a film that was radical, uncompromising, and on a par with my ambitions. To hold fast and to go the distance!

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

Jc: It’s a French film. And in France, films are subsidized by public and private funding. With regard to my film in particular, it was produced in the main thanks to the support of Canal+, the Cnc [Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée], the Paca Region [Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur], and private funding.

W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?

Jc: International recognition. Which means a lot to me, given that my cinematographic influences have tended to be more American, and Asian. And also, three years ago, I was fortunate to take part in the Toronto Talent Lab. So it’s part of an ongoing story with Toronto.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

Jc: “Joan, have trust!”

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

Jc: Hmmm. By way of an answer, I’d say that the word “female” is superfluous in your question.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

Jc: Unfortunately, Stanley Kubrick is not a woman. So I’d say Chantal Akerman. Her filmmaking is so sensitive, so radical. Hers is a powerful universe. I also like the films of Andrea Arnold.

W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.

Jc: First off, I feel that this is an issue that concerns most professions that have to do with leadership, with power.

Secondly, my answer, which may seem a little harsh, would be as follows: Sure, a woman often has to do two, three, four, or even five times more — and so on — to prove that she is as competent as a man. But one must never indulge in self-victimization.

I believe in work. Although, undeniably, certain things have to change with regard to the place granted to women in the movie world and elsewhere, such change has to come from men, but also from women.

Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Joan Chemla — “If You Saw His Heart” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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