What is love ? When Hafsia Herzi talks about fidelity, her body, sincerity and heartache, that does not leave you indifferent. The actress, revealed by Abdellatif Kechiche in "The Seed and the Mullet", has become famous for its subtle, sensual, direct and natural interpretations. These qualities are also found in "You deserve a love", the story of Lila, deceived by Remi, her boyfriend she loved to madness. Hafsia Herzi's feature debut as a director and also starring in the lead role was presented in a special session at Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival. Interview.
RFI : In your first feature film, you also play the lead role. Have you become a director to appear even more on the big screen ?
Hafsia Herzi : Not at all. Frankly, I play in the film, because it's a film I produced. It is a self-produced project, done without funding, and this for reasons of practicality, since I did it over several periods. At one point, I wondered who I would be able to count on if the movie ever dragged on or there was a problem. Afterwards, I said to myself: about me. So, it was really not for me, I play in the film, but to make a film with few means. It was a personal challenge.
► See also: Cannes: Maryam Touzani shows the "hell" of unmarried mothers in Morocco
You deserve a love is a sublime poem by Frida Kahlo (Mexican painter, 1907-1954) that inspired your film, but on screen your definition of young love today appears. For you, what is love ?
This is the question asked in the film. I think nobody has an answer to love. So, I do not really know. In love, we do not know what tomorrow is made of. So, I do not know what love is.
In the movie, your protagonists say, " Our parents were lucky. Today, the only thing we know is that it changes constantly .
There is a scene where it is said that it was much better at the time of the parents, because sometimes they married without knowing each other. But we do not know because we did not live there. I think we should not ask too many questions in love, because life is short. It's beautiful to love, you have to go for it and be sincere. It's important to be sincere. You have to be sincere.
In the film, with you we explore Paris a lot. As a director and actress, is this your most Parisian film ?
Completely. I never thought of shooting a movie on Paris. I grew up in Marseille, so it's more Marseille that inspires me. But here, why Paris? For reasons of practicality. For comedians, technicians and equipment, it was much simpler. We had started in July, so Paris was pretty empty. It was more convenient, we were quieter to turn. In winter, it would not have been the same shoot.
To know what love is, have you undertaken any inquiries ?
It's Frida Kahlo's poem that inspired me the script. After, love for me is inexplicable. That's right, I've investigated a little around me to get the opinions of one and the other, older people, younger ... In doing my little investigation, what is the most emerged each time, it was that everyone went through the heartache. From that moment on, I thought, it's a universal subject. Everyone has felt once in his life the distress, the desire to die for someone, the loss of self-confidence. We have the impression that time stops, because the loved one is no longer there. It upset me a lot when I "discovered" that. Everyone is concerned, rich, poor, men, women, whatever the job ... If there is one thing in which we are all together, that's it, the heart. There is no cure for the heart.
►Also read: Cannes: "Papicha", Mounia Meddour makes the freedom in Algeria
You shot at a low budget, did the costumes yourself, shot at friends' houses ... were the unexpected and the improvisations difficult to manage ?
We were practical, we adapted. At no time did I feel that the film was made without money. Afterwards, for the logistics, some things were a bit complicated, but we always did it. Everyone had several positions. Friends and friends helped us a lot, merchants opened their doors to us because we could not rent a restaurant or café to shoot. All this was really friendship, solidarity for the film.
In the credits, you thank Abdellatif Kechiche. What is his contribution to your film ?
For me, it's normal to thank him. He will always be in my thanks the number one, because he taught me a lot. It's thanks to him if I'm here today. He gave me my chance in the cinema. He was the one who revealed to me and always encouraged me to believe in my dreams and my desires for achievement, whereas I never did a film school. He always told me: there are no rules, fight, work. Even though I know he will not want to be in thanks ... for me it's normal.
This year, several actresses, like you, are presenting their first feature film in Cannes as directors, such as Mati Diop and Maryam Touzani. And several women directors also mentioned feeling a certain need for a return to the origins, in the country of their parents. Mati Diop, born in France, returned for her film Atlantique in Senegal, the Algerian Mounia Meddour did her training and her career in France to look now with Papicha on the history of Algeria. Do you also feel the need for a return to the origins ?
For my film, no. Why ? Because in the movie, we do not care about the origins of the characters.
And beyond the film ?
As well. Why ? Because I was born in France. After, it's true, my mother is Algerian, my father Tunisian. It is something that is part of me and is important in my life. In this movie, I just wanted to leave out the character's origins, and so on. It was not the purpose of the film.
►Also read: Cannes: with "Atlantic", Mati Diop's undead return to Senegal
► You deserve a love, film directed by Hafsia Herzi, selected in special session at the Semaine de la critique at the Cannes Film Festival.
► Hafsia Herzi also plays in Abdellatif Kechiche's film: Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, in the running for the Palme d'Or.