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Emmanuel Courcol on ‘The Big Hit’: “It takes very good actors to throw a lousy performance”

French director Emmanuel Courcol, director of The Big Hit
  • The French director will close the 65th Seminci with his second feature film, a comedy based on real events

10/30/2020.- French actor and director Emmanuel Courcol will be debuting at the Valladolid Film Festival with his sophomore feature Un Triomphe (The Big Hit), a comedy that will close the 65th edition. This Friday, speaking from his home over a videoconference link to Canal Seminci Courcol recounted some details from the shooting of a movie that is based on real events and follows a theatre troupe formed by  inmates at a correctional centre.

The film was co-produced by Robert Guédiguian, the winner of the Golden Spike at the 45th edition, and Marc Bordure, who proposed the story to the director after watching a documentary years ago. “I spent quite long thinking  about the best way to adapt it for the screen and this is the result”, he said.

While casting the parts of the prison’s inmates, Courcol chose unknown faces and “put up a lineup that combined actors I knew and others I didn’t  know (…) There was a phase of my work with the actors where professional performers were expected to of act like clumsy amateurs and then gradually make progress. It takes very good actors to throw a lousy performance”, he said amidst laughter.

Courcol had the opportunity to visit the prison where the film was shot in order to “become imbued” with the atmosphere of the place. There was even a theatre group  similar to the one in the movie, where the prisoners had to prepare a show that would be performed outside the premises. By observing them, he managed to  better understand the personality of the inmates, the relationship they had with the drama workshop director and with the prison officers. “It helped me to be as fair as possible”, he said.

The Big Hit was shot over eight days in a correctional facility where 1,000 inmates live. Although it was a complicated process, the director is highly  satisfied with the final result. For the time being, the movie  has only been seen by the prison staff, not the inmates, due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but Courcol is aware that the film’s pre-screening was well received.  “The prison staff saw it  three weeks ago and they liked it, because it accurately portrays  life inside the correctional institution.

The French filmmaker is convinced  that culture can help the prison population: an experience like cinema “brings them something new, it opens up new horizons, and that can be potentially life-changing”.

The film’s theatrical release was scheduled for December 23, but the pandemic has forced its postponement, although the director is confident that it may take place by the end of January or in  February. “Now we need humanity and hope, and this movie can do us good. I suppose that we’ll soon  be able to screen it for theatre audiences”.

Un Triomphe has the official Stamp of Approval  of the Cannes Festival and has been shortlisted for the European Film Awards.

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