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1st December 2014
True nature
Title of film: Edmond was a donkey
Director: Franck Dion
Benoit Berthe talks with Franck Dion the creator of the short film Edmond was a Donkey

The story and the Edmond character are deeply moving. Could you please tell us the genesis of this project?

The film originated from an illustration I did of a man proudly wearing a dunce’s cap. I liked this twist and wanted to create a story where a man would happily claim an identity that was absurd to others.

What was behind your decision to explore the gender identity theme?

The identity theme is the focal point of the film, but I am also talking about emancipation and about the daily energy that you sometimes have to use to claim the right to be the one you really are. When I wrote the scenario I particularly had in mind the courage and the energy that transgender people use to claim their rights. They are people stuck in a skin which is not their skin, and they always have to justify that reality to others, this is absurd! Obviously this subject can also be extended to the homosexuality theme which is still regarded today as a deviancy or a sickness by some people. The fact that these debates are still undermining our society proves that the way to a more open-minded civilization is tortuous and difficult.

Why did you choose to give a voice to everybody except Edmond? Do you think this choice paradoxically raises the empathy that we feel for Edmond in the short film?

Edmond is an enigmatic character, to give him a voice would make him more human, and certainly less mysterious. Animals don’t speak, which contributes to making them elusive from our human point of view, but it doesn’t prevent us feeling empathy for them. I wanted to have this kind of empathy for Edmond.

The soundtrack develops the emotion of the short, how did you work with the composer Pierre Caillet?

I have been working with Pierre for more than 10 years now. I think his work on Edmond’s film is really a brave piece and brings another dimension to the film that only music can bring. This is for me the most important quality of a good original soundtrack.

Your previous film Monsieur Cok is also politically engaging (see in Related Content)- is it Franck Dion’s signature or simply a necessity for you to explore issues?

Yes it is an important component of my preoccupations, I’m lucky to be able to express issues in telling stories as a profession. It’s also a conscious way to deal with derision which disgusts me. It’s not a factory signature, though.

You have the significant peculiarity to be director and producer of your own films, can you explain please the advantages and difficulties of this process?

I only see advantages to being your own producer, at least for the kind of films that I do. I’m surrounded by a super competent administrator and associates whose opinion helps me a lot to keep perspective and not to stay stuck in my own convictions. I’m also lucky to work with good co-producers which eases things a lot. I like to embrace a project entirely and take entire responsibility for it. It’s also a matter of temperament.

Edmond was selected at a slew of international festival awards including the 2013 Césars, did you feel a notable difference from before and after the Awards?

The Césars ceremony give the film a bigger visibility. It was also a nice occasion to have a party in Fouquet’s restaurant with the “Ernest and Celestine” team which won the award of the best animated long feature and smoke cigarettes with the stars of the moment. Prestigious selections and awards are kind of a chocolate medal which always please and sometimes open some doors. I don’t spit on it.

What elements create a good short film?

Freedom – Freedom of the style and freedom of the content. It is a rare place in cinema where you can do that. We have to make good use of that!

What are your next projects, are you interested in features?

I gave up co-directing a long feature a few months ago that some people had invited me to do. I didn’t feel in line with the project anymore and it makes me feel sad. To put diesel in my motor, I started a new animation short film project which will be co-produced with ARTE and we will start the production at the beginning of next year. I’m also writing other films, and a long feature with my friend Gille Cuvelier. And I also have multimedia projects for ipad and other devices.

Credits

Written, Designed, Edited and Directed by : Franck Dion – Animation : Gilles Cuvelier, Gabriel Jacquel, Samuel Guénolé et Claire Trollé (Studio Train-train) – 3D Modelling : Vincent Duponchel – Rigging and 3D Rendering : Vanilla Seed – Original Score : Pierre Caillet – Sound Design : Pierre Yves Drapeau – Producers : Franck Dion, Richard Van Den Boom (Papy3D Productions) et Julie Roy (ONF)