The Mif awarded at the Zurich Film Festival: in the gritty and compassionate family drama for children
It’s a Swiss film, with non-professional actors, most of whom grew up in the healthcare system.
Today, La Mif, also known as “The Fam”, is slated for an international release after winning the Focus competition at the Zurich Film Festival This weekend. Nominations for the award must come from directors who have made no more than three films in their career.
Set in a fictitious Geneva retirement home for girls, with improvised dialogues by mostly teenage actresses, the film was directed by self-taught director and producer Fred Baillif.
Almost all of the people who play on-screen roles come from nursing and foster homes themselves.
Mif will now travel to the United Kingdom, where it will be broadcast by the British Film Institute (BFI). It is also shortlisted for this year’s European Film Awards.
“I just wanted to move the situation of life to care from the inside”
The story revolves around a group of young people living in foster care, where even the person playing the director of the home, Claudia Grob, worked in the sector rather than as an actress before filming.
She was on the verge of retirement when asked to star in the film.
“I just wanted to bring the situation of life in care to life from the inside, on behalf of the people who really lived it,” explains Baillif.
“That’s why I decided to work with non-professional actors, to make sure I was listening to people who had really experienced their situation. The film is a fiction: nothing comes from their real situations; but because they opened their hearts and told me their story, I hope they inspired me to write some very real fiction.
But he adds that their personalities are very similar to the ones they show in the film.
“It was my first rule,” he explains. “Never try to act; you are not professional actors.
Street casting pays off for 21st century directors
Nonetheless, “street casting,” as it is called, is a technique often used successfully in 21st century cinema.
Ken Loach, double winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is renowned for his collaboration with those who have never acted before for his dramas on social realism, while Laurent Cantet also won the Palme d’Or for ” The Class “in 2008, an improvised docu-drama. in the French education system.
Successes at festivals like this can open doors for those who had never considered an acting career before.
The first prize winner of this year’s competition at the Zurich Film Festival, A Chiara, by Jonas Carpignano, is set in Calabria, Italy, and features many members of the Rotolo family, all making their debuts at the movie theater. It got a theatrical release in the United States based on its critical reception.
Rocks is a British film directed by Sarah Gavron, who collaborated with a group of schoolgirls in east London, to create and improvise a story around a female character called Rocks. The film won five British Independent Film Awards and a BAFTA for Best Casting. Lead actress Bukky Bakray also won this year’s EE BAFTA Rising Star award at the age of 19 – and now continues to act full time.
Could the filming of La Mif revive the careers of actors of former children in retirement homes?
Two of the teenagers who star in “La Mif”, Anais Uldry and Charlie Areddy, say they will try to make a career out of the experience. Uldry is currently studying fashion, but says she will try to meet with agents and casting directors after graduation.
Areddy was one of the few cast members who hadn’t experienced the healthcare system in real life; she is the daughter of the film’s cinematographer and got a bigger role after her appearance as an extra.
“Fred was impressed with me when I did a scene for him and after that asked me to shoot other scenes. He said each character had a story of their own, so I had used to work on my own story in the car with my dad, ”she explains.
“I was already interested in acting and had done a bit of acting when I went to Fred’s set, so I would love to continue acting in movies and TV, I love it. ‘idea of being another person in another world. “
“When Charlie did his first scene, it was absolutely amazing,” says Fred. “I don’t know how she did it, but everyone was in tears during her scene, it was so touching. So we wanted her to do more.
Baillif says that even though he had a script with an overall narrative, all the dialogues were improvised; he would whisper suggestions to cast members if needed during filming. Nor did he “cut” a scene as quickly as on a typical film set, to give the dialogue time to develop.
“It would be really interesting to use the same method of working with a professional cast,” he says.
He recognizes that professional actors always have a value that those who have no experience find it difficult to reproduce.
“Emotionally, those who have been trained in acting may be less afraid to do things, to go places. And that’s another thing that I insisted on with this movie, is that no one had to do anything that they were not comfortable with.
“Fred helped them express things that they had carried with them for a long time”
Anais Uldry says working with the group raised other issues for the director.
“Fred is really brave in making this movie,” she said. “Girls were sometimes late on set, you know, because of our background, we weren’t always reliable people. Sometimes people didn’t show up at all.
“I think I got there late on the first day myself, but when I got there Fred just came up to me and hugged me and said, ‘Thanks for coming. “It has been a really wonderful learning experience for me.
Claudia Grob adds that working with a cast with their past had aroused complicated emotions in many of them, which they were still dealing with.
“Fred helped them express things that they wore inside for a long time, and sometimes those things are ugly,” she explains.
“Having a good self-image and agreeing to do something extraordinary is almost impossible for some of them.
“We got very emotional on set at times, and I think it would be great if they could now feel as good about themselves in real life as they did when they were making the movie.”
‘La Mif / The Fam’ is the winner of the ‘Focus’ competition at this year’s Zurich Film Festival.