“This film was very special and distinct from my other work. I had worked a lot with kids in my previous films, but these films were not necessarily for children. Although, the previous films had great lives in festivals (the short JUST ME AND YOU won the crystal bear at the Berlinale – awarded by the youth jury), I felt I owed children a real film for them. When Maryse Latendresse came to me with this quirky idea – a tween that wanted to ask for her parents’ divorce – I really jumped at the idea. Furthermore, in Quebec we have a strong tradition of films for youth. I grew up with many live action films and I was really sad that today’s youth didn’t have much film content for them to watch and identify with. Maryse and I decided to give them one film. The day Maryse talked to me about this idea, we were at l’INIS, a film school in Montreal. As we came to the lobby, we ended up in a special night in honour of the famous André Melançon, director of so many cult films for kids. We saw it as a sign, we had to do this project.” Filmmaker Sandrine Brodeaur-Desrosiers on HOW TO GET MY PARENTS TO DIVORCE came together.
Welcome to CFF 2023! Are you attending your screenings in person? What excites you most about attending CFF for the first time?
It’s quite exciting to be part of such a great selection of Canadian films. I’m also thrilled that the film will be able to meet it’s audience elsewhere in Canada. We’ve made this film for the youth and their families. It’s very touching to know that the film resonated and will be now available for a bigger audience.
While working on a project, what is your creative process? Do you have any particular ritual or tradition when working on something?
To make sure this film was really FOR the youth, Maryse and I did a lot of research. We met children in their classes to validate our ideas as we were writing the film. Then, when it was time to direct it, I spent an entire summer talking with 8-14 years old kids/tween/teens to know what they liked. We talked about a big range of topic, such as their favorite color, the way they would change their schools if their could do anything, how they would decorate their secret cabine if they had one, what was their thoughts about Justine’s projet to get her parents to divorce, what was intimidation like in their school yards. I was very surprise to discover a young generation very empathetic, open to the world, thoughtful about the environment. I met kids from different cities, background, social situations.
Although it wasn’t possible to represent everyone, I really tried my best to gather small details from a wide range of realities. So I would say that, for this film, my ritual or tradition has been to make a deep research and do the film «with» the youth as much as possible because it’s a film for them. I also did a 2 weeks rehearsal with the young actors. That really helped to adapt the text to their way of talking, but also to bring the character’s to life and build a good group chemistry.
If you had one favourite moment out of this entire project, the “Yes, this is IT” moment, what would that be?
I have many favourite moments. I loved casting. Although it wasn’t possible to cast all the kids we met, I was amazed by the talents, but also the story kids had shared about how they related to the characters. That leads me to my favorite moment. I was really happy that the kids that acted in the film had a good time. It may seem shallow, but the fact that they built a small family, the way they laughed together, the way they interacted, really brought the project together. Most of them were really transitioning from primary school to high school and they did it as they were shooting the film. But it was also a transition towards affirmation. Charlotte, the main actress, shared with me that it was the first time she prepared alone for a role. She had learned her text alone, not with her father (who is also an actor). She was really proud at the end of the project. And for so many reasons I was so proud of her too. But most important is that she came out of this project being proud of herself. That meant a lot to me. Filming can be intense and harsh. But when it’s done with fun, kindness and hardwork I feel there’s something special that comes out of it. I already told the kids many times, but I couldn’t dreamt of better actors to do my first feature.
I love to get technical, so I would love to know about the visual design of the movie from the cameras you used and the formats and your relation to the cinematographer.
The vision has always been to follow Justine’s point of view and discover other families through her gaze. The challenge was not to infantilize children and yet have an entertaining film. We discovered children understood much quicker the human interaction and could guess easily what would happen. They were happy we didn’t put too much glitter on reality. So, the visual aspect needed to respect this balance: to be real, natural, yet have some parts with excitement, music, fun… and some skate scenes!
We used a shoulder cam most of the time, to be closer to the main character. We also worked on the lights to bring more mood. Sometimes, the darkness was to bring the audience a shiver. And the use of a disco ball to bring the magic. We had an ambitious film and pandemic stroke. I was very inspired by Charlie Kaufmann and wanted to introduce a bit more fantasy in the film. It’s now a bit more naturalistic than expected. Yet, I’m happy with the result. A film is a process. And this is where this film landed.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your project at CFF 2023?
Meeting the audience and hoping the film will resonate with the tweens and their families. The film is about communication, so if it opens up some discussion, I’m happy.
Where is this going next? More festivals or a theatrical or streaming release?
The film was already released in theatres in Quebec in June 2022. We’re finally starting the festival fun, which is very exciting. I’m very happy the film can travel outside of Quebec, into the rest of Canada. It will be available on iTunes soon. As for the international run, the film has been in Germany, won a prize in the USA and so on.
How do you feel about the current moviegoing climate? Are you wishing more people to see movies in theatres, or is it okay to opt for a streaming release where more people could potentially see a movie?
I think the theater experience can’t be replaced by streaming. When evaluating if a film did well at the box office, we only look at the theatrical release. I think streaming should also be in the loop. And when it comes to distribution, I think it has to change and the strategy should be all encompassing, including festivals, theatrical releases and streaming. Not all the distributors are going in that direction and I think it’s a bit sad. As a filmmaker, I’m doing the films to reach an audience, to open up a dialogue with them, and entertain. So, I do think we should value the streaming release more. However, I don’t think it can replace the theatrical release, which will always remain a strong human experience to me. To me, it’s always funnier when people are laughing around me. It’s always more touching when people are sobbing next to me. What a chance to have a space to experience emotion together, to share a story and a moment.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival and why?
There are so many films I love. As a teenager, I would have said ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. This film changed my life. Same for THE TRUMAN SHOW. I love quirky propositions, that are aside from real life, whilst also touching on deep human contradictions. Closer to home, I recently saw VIKING from Stephane Lafleur, which offered me a dreamlike experience. I love to be surprised by a concept or a film of that type. When I graduated from Concordia, I saw THE WORLD BEFORE HER, directed by Nisha Pahuja. It was a documentary about two women living in India, one training in a traditional camp and the other one trying to be Miss India. I never forgot this film.
A film is always about a journey, and I’m very emotionally touched to witness so many different realities. In 2014, I saw RELATOS SALVAJES by Damián Szifron. I remember the screening at Cannes festival on the last day; people were laughing so hard! When it comes to festival experiences, I’ll never forget that one. I don’t think I would see the film the same way alone in my house.
As I’m presenting a movie for the youth, I feel I should also mentioned BACH ET BOTTINE. Most people in Quebec like LA GUERRE DES TUQUES. It’s a cult movie and influenced the sound design of the food fight in our film. But to me, BACH ET BOTTINE is the one I remember most. I really liked the main character, a young girl with a big temper who has to move to her uncle’s house after her parents death. She raises a skunk in secret and I really wanted a skunk as a child.
HOW TO GET MY PARENTS TO DIVORCE and many other features will be showing at the Canadian Film Fest taking place from March 28-April 1. For more information point your browser to Canadian Film Fest (canfilmfest.ca)!