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Tall Poppy Interview: Noël Mitrani, Director

2007_01_30_Sur.jpgNoël Mitrani is the director of Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi, which premiered in Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, winning the CityTV Award for Best Canadian First Feature. The film, in which Jean-Marc Thomas (Laurent Lucas), a former European soccer player, wanders the streets Montreal before falling into petty crime while grieving his dead lover, was reviewed positively by Torontoist before the festival, and now plays as part of Canada’s Top Ten tomorrow night, Wednesday, January 31, at 8:45pm, and Mitrani will be taking part in the panel, New Quebec Cinema, on Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:30pm.
Despite featuring on a panel specifically about Quebec Cinema, Mitrani isn’t the stereotypical Quebecer; born in Toronto and spending the first five years of his life here before moving to Paris and studying History and Philosophy at the Sorbonne, Mitrani returned to Canada after 31 years of absence to direct Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi in (in his words) “The place of his freedom” Montréal.
Torontoist had a chance to catch up with Mitrani before the latest screening of his film.


Torontoist: How was the Toronto International Film Festival?
Noël Mitrani: It was a moving experience, because firstly I haven’t returned to Toronto since I was 5 years old, and secondly I was very surprised and happy to get a prize from such a huge festival with my little independent film.
For me it was a deep reward to be honored in my birth city after 32 years out of it. It was like a rebirth.
You showed Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi at The Venice Film Festival as well, how was that?
When I knew that my film was selected by The Venice Film Festival, it was the greatest moment in my life. During the several days of the festival I felt a warm sensation of achievement. For the second screening of my film we counted about 900 spectators in the Palalido theatre, it was crazy, I can’t describe how glad I was. My father said to me, “It’s a mistake, are you sure that all these people are here for your film?”
Yes, it was for my film!

Have you shown it elsewhere?

Yes, in Namur in Belgium and in Belfort in France. But my best souvenir was the Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece. It was a fiesta every night; the Greek audience are very smart movie-goers. It was a pleasure as a director, as the Q&As were fascinating.
You were born in Toronto and lived here as a child – do you have any fond memories of that time?
Many! But I’ve seen so many pictures and super 8 films of that time that sometimes I feel a confusion between pictures and memories.
Do you consider yourself French, French Canadian, or Canadian? Or
even none of the above?

Firstly I consider myself as a terrestrial who speaks a good French and a bad English, and secondly a Canadian who was banished to France for 31 years…

How did your own experience as a person who has lived and worked in
France, who has moved to Montréal, influence Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi?

Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi is the consequence of a long period of frustration in France. Living in France is a struggle; I was fed up with that way of living and I needed to make a poetic film in Montréal, my land of freedom. I’ve watched my film probably more than 100 times from the day I saw the rushes until now, and each time I watch it I’m moved because this film formulates exactly my real feelings. At the premiere in Montreal I saw a spectator crying at the end the screening. It was the best compliment I could have got.

What influence did Montréal have on Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi?

Montréal was a great spring of inspiration. I wanted to shoot Montréal as a western under the snow. I coudn’t have shown my deep feelings in Paris, I needed a place I feel free.
We’ve read you have a fascination with the 1970′s…
I’m nostalgic for the era when I was born. I consider the seventies as a artistic golden age, even serious people wore sideburns! I like the look, the cars, the clothes, the way of thinking of the seventies. Every day I’m sad to not be living in 1970.
How did you get into filmmaking?
The night of my 25th birthday, I met a director at a party in Paris, he talked about his job and I began to dream about being director. Then, I just wanted to be a writer. I don’t know if I should thank that guy or not, because every day in my life this job make me suffer, but then maybe that’s the reason I love this job?
You shot Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi on 35mm despite a shoestring budget – why was that important to you?
Because for me cinema is 35mm, that’s it. I don’t believe there is no difference between digital and 35mm, just as you can’t compare red wine and Coke. My opinion is: “When you make a low budget movie shoot in 35mm, but when you’ve got 15 millions dollars, shoot in digital because you have all the money you need to convert your ugly pictures into nice pictures!”

What does the future hold for Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi?

I don’t know. Since my film has been edited, I’m always surprised by its itinerary…

What is your next project?

I have just finished writing a new script. Next time I will shoot in English and I will work again with my friend Laurent Lucas. I’m so lucky to direct such a great actor. I hope I will shoot next summer somewhere in North America.

Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi will also be playing at the Royal Cinema, starting February 2nd.

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