Zita Hanrot

Zita Hanrot studied at the French National Drama School, and while there, she was cast in films by François Ozon and Mia Hansen-Love, among others. Upon graduating, Philippe Faucon offered her the lead in “Fatima” for which she won the 2016 César for Most Promising Actress. She has since been cast in many acclaimed French films, including as the voice and likeness of Zunaira in the animated film “The Swallows of Kabul” by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec that screened at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Recently, Zita can be seen as the lead in the box office hit “School Life” by  Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir as well as Farid Bentoumi’s upcoming work, “Rouge.”

Tara Karajica talks to Zita Hanrot about being an actress, a European Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.





What made you want to become an actress?

Zita Hanrot: I think I’ve always wanted to act, but that dream solidified in 2008, when I was in high school. I went to see Les Éphémères, staged by Ariane Mnouchkine, and I was really moved by the show. When I left the theater, I told myself: “I want to move people like this,” – that was clearly it.

Your last role was Samia, a young educational consultant, in Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir’s School Life. She doesn’t throw the towel when faced with the kids’ academic failures and lack of discipline. What’s more, she’s convinced she can help these young people who only really need someone to believe in them. Can you elaborate on that? What is the message of the film, in your opinion?

Z.H.: To prepare for this film, I did a sort of ten day-training, during which I shadowed an educational team in a middle school. Through their professional engagement, I felt like there was the feeling of a vocation or something beyond reason. I think Samia feels that way as well. I don’t really know what the message of the film would be. I don’t think there is one – or a moral to the story either. I think it is a bright film that is both realistic and comical.

In that sense, adolescence is a period when we find out who we are and we doubt ourselves and our abilities. What was your adolescence like? Are you nostalgic of that time?

Z.H.: My adolescence went very well, but my school years were a bit chaotic because I was more preoccupied by my friends than by my studies. Yes, sometimes I am nostalgic of that time, of that atmosphere, I’d say.

How do you see Samia? Are you anything like her?

Z.H.: Samia is a solar, passionate, serious, engaged, modern and combative young woman. In my eyes, she is a very positive character, with a lot of courage. I can’t say precisely what we have in common; maybe a social awareness and a common sensitivity in some situations.

How have you prepared for this role? What drew you to it?

Z.H.: I decided not to prepare and rehearse too much so that the scenes were not denatured. I mean, as most of my partners are children and teenagers who had never acted before, I wanted to be as receptive to their energy and propositions as possible. Samia observes a lot; she is attentive and tries to understand, so I worked on these notions.

You have acted on TV and in film. Which medium do you prefer? Why?

Z.H.: I like all media, they each bring something different, be it theater, television or cinema.

How do you pick a role? Which one is your favorite, if any?

Z.H.: It’s combination of things, I pick the film and the role, but it’s quite instinctive and sometimes a role appears like the answer to a question I ask myself.

In 2016, you won the César for Most Promising Actress, but what does being a European Shooting Star mean for your career and how do you think it will impact it?

Z.H.: Being a Shooting Star is an honor. I am really glad to meet artists from other countries because they bring a different perspective on things, and that is interesting to me!

What does it take to be a star, according to you?

Z.H.: I have no idea!

There has been a lot of talk about women in film these past two years. What do you make of the situation of women in film? How is the situation in France?

Z.H.: I am glad that it’s happening. There should be more female filmmakers around the world! For example, in the United States, there was no woman nominated for the Oscar for Best Directing this year. In France, the situation is changing, and I feel that things are going in a good direction, but there are still a lot of cliques, and I think it is a shame.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?

Z.H.: In France, it’s Claire Denis. In Germany, Maren Ade. I want to work with both.

What are your next projects?

Z.H.: I will be in Farid Bentoumi’s next film, Rouge. I will be performing Garcia Loca’s texts onstage, and I’m currently writing my second short film.




Photo credit: Thomas Babeau.

This interview was conducted in partnership with:

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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