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Thursday, 7/4/2019

Where to?

Young Protagonists at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN

Where to?

On a search for themselves: Mina Farid and Zahia Dehar in AN EASY GIRL

Who am I, really? What's important to me? What do I want to achieve in life? These are questions that all of us will probably ask ourselves at some point. Particularly when we're young, when the whole world is our oyster, and expectations and opportunities alike rain down on us, this can all be very intimidating and confusing — because even when lots of people offer well-meaning advice, everyone has to come up with his or her own answers to these personal questions.

KINDERFILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2019 tells lots of stories about young protagonists who have arrived at such pivotal moments or who are having to deal with certain situations. In MY LIFE AS LOTTA – BINGO FLAMINGO!, adapted from a bestseller, ten-year-old Lotta and Cheyenne learn what true friendship is when they are the only ones who haven't been invited to a big party. The twelve-year-old title character in INVISIBLE SUE is often ignored by others, but then she discovers new abilities in herself and manages to overcome her shyness. CHUSKIT takes us to a Tibetan Buddhist village in the Himalayas, where the young heroine of the title dreams of being allowed to go to school — a heartwarming story based on real events.

 

INVISIBLE SUE, MY LIFE AS LOTTA - BINGO FLAMINGO! and CHUSKIT

 

The other sections of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2019 also include lots of exciting films about children and adolescents who are in search of answers. Two films that have made their way to us from Latin America, for example, are very unusual. In THE SHARKS, 14-year-old Rosina believes she's spotted a shark near a village in Uruguay. As the villagers grow uneasy, she herself targets attractive Joselino, who works for her father. In the poetic youth drama LAND OF ASHES from Costa Rica, it's 13-year-old Selva's devotion to her family that keeps her going: devotion to her late mother, whose ghost she believes she keeps seeing, and devotion to her grandfather, who would prefer to die. But where does she stand?

Fifteen-year-old Qodrat lost his family long ago, but he's acquired a big dream: to be the hero of a Bollywood film! Instead of that, however, he winds up in THE ORPHANAGE, in which he learns a lot about human behavior and about himself, while late 1980s Afghanistan is in the middle of upheaval. EIGHTH GRADE, by contrast, is completely rooted in the present, as eighth-grader Kayla gives Internet users tips on finding their identity, while she herself struggles with shyness. This celebrated coming-of-age film is very much in touch with the times yet it raises classic themes that young people have always had to deal with.

 

THE ORPHANAGE, THE SHARKS and EIGHTH GRADE

 

Also very close to our present is SCHOOL'S OUT, a film with mystery thriller elements that deals with today's youth and its sources of anxiety. How are we to continue to live in a world in which the environment is systematically being destroyed, everyone lies to us, and we are completely powerless? AN EASY GIRL, celebrated in Cannes, also deals with different generations. The story revolves around 16-year-old Naïma, who is spending the summer with her 22-year-old cousin Sofia — and with wealthy, middle-aged men who collect works of art as well as beautiful women. This film takes a sensual approach to self-discovery and a yearning for freedom.

We met Zahia Dehar, who plays the character of Sofia , at the German premiere of AN EASY GIRL at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2019 and asked her about her own youth, the right kind of freedom, and childhood dreams.

Why did you become an actress?

I've always loved cinema and films, since I was little. Even now, I can watch movies for days and never get tired of it. I really love cinema and films more than anything else. I would never have thought, though, that I'd ever personally be involved in one. One day, Marilou Berry offered me a small part. I played it and had a lot of fun with it, and that's how things got started.

What films do you like best?

I love Luis Buñuel. I love his THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE. Then there's THE GODDESS, a Chinese silent movie from the 1930s by Wu Yonggang. I love this film because even back then it defended a certain category of women who were being discriminated against. This film was revolutionary and remains so today. I also love Roman Polanski: all his films, but most of all BITTER MOON.

What has your experience as an actress been like?

I've always loved it to the fullest. I have the impression that I'm always doing what I'm entertained and amused by. It's work, and it takes a lot of discipline to make movies, but it's also something that excites me. I've gone for days without noticing that I've been working. From rehearsals to shoots, it's been a real pleasure. It's also brought me a lot of ease. An ease that could perhaps be compared with the ease of a child at play. This ease has also helped me to escape the monotony of day-to-day life: playing a different role each time, entering a different universe each time.

To what extent do you identify with the role of Sofia?

I think we're very similar. I had a lot of fun playing this character, even though she's completely fictional. Both of us have this thirst for adventure, this thirst for life. Both of us are very interested in freedom. She clearly represents characters and persons I admire. In that regard, it was great to embody her. To me, she represents persons who inspire me, who are completely free, and who are able to enjoy life. I think that playing her has made me a bit more free. I clearly notice how I allow myself to take liberties much more often, how I am much more conscious of my freedom. How I can also distance myself more deliberately from the ridiculous morals that society confronts us with.

It could also be argued that she isn't really free, because she needs men in order to enjoy herself.

We are all alive and nature has made us such that we have physical and sexual needs — that we need a male or female partner to stimulate us so that we don't become hysterical. We need someone at our side. Some people are subjugated to a great extent and very much not free, and are very limited in their ability to access this. The main reason why we need someone else is to stimulate our minds. At that moment, Sofia combines benefits and comfort. She has found her path. There may be people who see that as being less free. To me, however, she is clearly free and making use of the opportunities that present themselves. Other people who don't make use of these opportunities or who don't understand how this kind of exchange works might be very sad and be getting less attention. We are all in this world to talk to other people and exchange ideas — and, very importantly, to be stimulated.

Another theme of your film is the value of a person. Sofia meets several men who measure their own value according to how much they own. What determines a person's value for you?

That's an interesting question. I'd say sensitivity and empathy for others, even if they are far away. If the world had more sensitivity and empathy, it'd be a better place.

The second main character in this film is her younger cousin Naïma, who is still finding her way. What did you want to be when you were young? What was your dream?

I wanted to be a pilot.

And what do you dream of now?

There are so many things. Mainly that I'm able to keep progressing and expressing myself and taking part in such exciting projects as AN EASY GIRL. That's really a big dream come true.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I think the only advice I haven't given myself enough of as a child is: Watch out. There are a lot of bad people out there. I really could have used this advice.

And if you could give advice to another young girl who's still finding her way, what would you tell her?

That really depends who this young girl is. I'd mainly tell her to be herself and not conform to some completely absurd preconceived notions. Girls should be themselves and — very importantly — be authentic.