Interview: French director presents “story of redemption” at Cannes

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By Grandesso Federico

“This is a kind of redemption story… It is a fight on how you can find yourself in a jail,” said French film director Stephane Sauvaire on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival.

Sauvaire’s film — “A Prayer Before Dawn” — was shown on Friday as the opening film of the Midnight Screenings.

“The film is about how the protagonist found his peace in a prison and how he got released by himself. This aspect is also paradoxically because in a prison you are locked up and you lose years of your life,” Sauvaire told Xinhua in an interview.

The film, which is co-produced by China, is the story of a lost young man who ends up in a hard Thai prison.

After a harsh “welcome” in the jail, he will find, thanks to boxing, his way out. This terrible experience was able to change his life in a sort of initiation path.

Asked on the genesis of the film, Sauvaire explained, “First my French Producer Rita Daguerre sent me the script. She got the text from a UK company and asked me if I would have been interested in a story in Thailand about Thai boxing and prison.”

“It was a good material to make a film. The story was about a guy who spent 3 years in Thailand. First he was living in violence of Liverpool then when he was 28 he went to Thailand to change his life. There he did some boxing then he got arrested and spent two years there surrounded by local people that helped him to stop his addition and move into the boxing team,” He added.

“Finally it is in prison that this guy finds himself and released. There is a message in the film — This is not just a general movie but it is based on a true human story,” Sauvaire said.

“To shoot in the jail, it was quite difficult. We got the approval of the Ministry of Tourism to shoot in the country,” the director said.

What was difficult for Sauvaire was to combine prison and boxing because there were good films on both subjects.

“I had to try and my way of working is more like documentary style. And working with non-professional actors, they give you the inspiration,” he said.
Asked about how he made an original film on this very much exploited topic, he said,”It is quite difficult because you have a lot of good boxing movies. Most of them are coming from Hollywood.”

He continued, “On the contrary I shot long shots not cutting but organizing the choreography and shooting 10 minutes fight. So in the film I think it looks kind of real and maybe different of the boxing scenes done before.”

Sauvaire said then that this is not a boxing movie but it contains various elements like the addiction in jail and so on. It is more a story of a human being rather than a genre film.

“I tried to be honest. I worked in different prisons in many countries and I realized that it was not so negative as depicted sometimes, even in Thailand it is not that bad as you can see in films.

“I saw organized and disciplined prisons and there is the possibility to practice boxing which is for me a way for the prisoners to release the traumatism and to change. So I tried to portray a prison in an authentic way sometimes it is violent but there are lots of human beings with feelings, love, etc,” Sauvaire said.

Asked about collaboration with the Chinese side, the French director explained, “We had Chinese financers and producers. We worked very well with them. I would love to work in China because it is a country where a lot of things are going on at the moment.”

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