Claire Burger

Claire Burger graduated with a degree in film editing from La Fémis in Paris. In 2008, she made “Forbach,” a short film that won the Cinéfondation Award in Cannes and the Grand Prix at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. Together with Marie Amachoukeli, she co-directed “Demolition Party” and “C’est gratuit pour les filles.” The latter screened in the Cannes Critics’ Week sidebar and was awarded a César for Best Short Film as well as a Special Mention at Clermont-Ferrand. The collaboration with Marie Amachoukeli continued in 2014 when they were also joined by Samuel Theis. “Party Girl,” written and directed by the three artists, was selected in Un Certain Regard in Cannes and won the Caméra d’Or and the Prix d’ensemble. Her first feature, “Real Love,” screened in the Venice Days strand at the 2018 Venice Film Festival.

 Tara Karajica caught up with Claire Burger at this year’s Les Arcs Film Festival where “Real Love” is screening in the Competition program and where she is being honored with the “Femme de Cinéma” prize.

 

 

 

Can you talk about your background? How did you get into Film?

Claire Burger: I come from the Moselle, a very low class region in France and I didn’t go to University. I worked after high school as a journalist for a very small TV channel and I used to make very annoying news about very boring things in my hometown. That’s how I learnt to use the camera and the editing station. I was dreaming to be able to create something more interesting with images and maybe even go further. So I tried to get into La Fémis in Paris and I did and that’s how I got into Film. I studied editing and, at the end of my studies, I made a short film with my best friend and her family and, by chance, it had quite a success in Cannes. This was a wonderful opportunity to make films. But, in fact, I think I was very lucky because I was not supposed to be making films at the beginning!

Why did you choose editing? Do you still edit your films?

C.B.: Yes, but with an editor. I always have two stations. I chose editing for two reasons. The first one, because I’ve learnt how to shoot and how to edit like I’ve just told you and I think I saw that the writing in the editing was a very important step. The second reason is that I didn’t go to University and it is quite hard to get into La Fémis and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in if I wanted to go into directing, so it was actually a smart move.

Your new film is very personal and it’s the first feature film where you are on your own. Can you talk about that experience?

C.B.: I wrote a personal film because I think I couldn’t have done anything else. Maybe it’s very French or very European to think that when you want to express something in Art, you have to be personal. I don’t know… But, for me, it’s very important to start with something I know. That’s why I always do it like this. At that time, I couldn’t talk about anything other than this story because I was just breaking up and I was a mess. It’s also the story of my parents – I think I was such a mess that my parents’ story just came to me as it happens sometimes when you are forty. That’s the beginning of this story…

You mostly work with non-professional actors. Can you explain this choice?

C.B.: Because I began with journalism and, at the beginning, at this little channel, I was supposed to film someone every morning, edit in the afternoon and it would air at the end of the day and I think I was fascinated by how people were able to act themselves. They are not really themselves in front of a camera. Since the beginning, I have been quite fascinated by this and that’s why I think I began to work with non-professional actors. I like new faces. I also wanted to shoot in my hometown and, as I told you before, it’s a very low class territory and I needed to be able to see it on the face of the people and not beautiful people trying to act poor in front of the camera. At the end, I feel a very beautiful emotion when someone acts in front of the camera for the very first time. It’s a very touching and very delicate moment and I feel very lucky to be able to witness this. But now, I want to try to also work with professional actors because, like every filmmaker, I am passionate about what I make and I really wonder what acting is about and I want to understand how it works. It’s going to be very interesting for me to discover how it is to work with professionals. For the moment, I mix it.

Can you talk about the casting of the two girls in the film?

C.B.: One of the two girls was found in my hometown area. I thought I would find both girls there because I instinctively thought it was important that they came from my hometown but, in the end, only the young one is from Forbach. I met the other one at a wedding in Paris. Her parents work in Cinema and she is very, very different from the young girl, but because the film talks about love, it was very interesting for me to mix people from different areas, different places, different social classes. They even have different accents in real life, but you can’t really see it in the film. It was interesting for me to see that it was a matter of sensitivity rather than where we come from.

Can you explain the title?

C.B.: The title is a little ironic. It comes from a French song about a man who is really a drunk and who is saying: “Now I know, I know, I am sure I know what love is” and you really feel he doesn’t know and that he will never know. I like this song and, in a way, it’s more like a question than a statement. What the film is talking about is always love; what you can feel for your sister, your father, your brother, your mother, the man you love, the girl you love… And it’s love at different stages: the beginning, the end… It’s a variation on the theme of love.

You are here at Les Arcs as this year’s “Femme de Cinéma.” Can you talk about this experience and what this particular award means to you? Also, what is your take on women in film today?

C.B.: At the beginning, I wasn’t very comfortable with it because I thought: “Do I get a prize only because I am a woman?” I didn’t really know what to think of this. But I came to realize really quickly that at the moment there is no equality in Film in France even if there are more and more women. Even if I didn’t have a problem to become a director, it doesn’t mean that it’s not difficult for most of us. Finally, I just felt that it’s my responsibility to accept the award and talk about this and maybe also about the fact that I have had a lot of luck to make this film and to be a director here in France, but it’s rare. I think we have to keep on fighting because a lot of people made it before us and that’s why I can be here, so that’s also why I think we have to fight. Even if it seems to be easy for me to be a woman and make films, it’s still fragile.

In terms of women in film, in France, we have a lot of female directors, but we don’t have equality yet. I think society is changing in France, but it’s very slow and there are a lot of old men and women who are still in power and I think they don’t understand exactly what we are talking about when we are talking about equality. They don’t understand that we need to have responsibility and to be able to decide. We must have women directors, but also producers, in festivals and everywhere, because I think the world needs the female gaze too. Then, there are a lot of other struggles that we have fight because Cinema is also very white. I think it’s interesting that we live in a period where we are able to reconsider this and we shouldn’t be afraid to do it and I think it’s a chance that we have to take.

What advice would you give to young female filmmakers who are starting out?

C.B.: I haven’t thought about this, but I’d tell them that they shouldn’t doubt at any time that it’s the right thing for them to do if they want to do it. I think I didn’t have that many difficulties because I was raised by feminist parents and I had a lot of feminists around me, so nobody ever really asked me about this and I didn’t feel fragile about it. It has always been simple for me to think: “I’m a woman, so what?” but I didn’t think I could be the President of France and there are a lot of things we need to fix in our society today.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

C.B.: I would probably say Andrea Arnold and Maren Ade. And then, my favorite films by a female filmmaker are Red Road and Toni Erdmann.

What are you working on now? What are your next projects?

C.B.: I’m still thinking about it and I am still working for this one [Real Love] and it’s just an idea somewhere in the back of my mind, so it’s too soon to talk about it.

 

 

This interview was conducted at the 2018 Les Arcs Film Festival.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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