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[Interview] – Josza Anjembe – ‘French’ – A Feature Film

 

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Posted October 30, 2017 by

 
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Josza Anjembe’s French is inspired by true events and popular with film audiences, having received eleven audience awards among its unprecedented accolades. This exciting drama shares the plight of a young lady whose dream is to become a French citizen.

At seventeen, Seyna, a teenager from Cameroon is passionate about France history, the country where she was born and she is deeply in love.

Her diploma in hand, and approaching her majority, Seyna aspires only to one thing: getting French nationality. But her father Amidou is fiercely opposed to it. 

Director Josza Anjembe, is a French documentary filmmaker, and a journalist. She began her love for this field with her first documentary Cameroonian Massage, which was broadcast on French television and selected for numerous film festivals. Her award winning film French, was inspired in part by her real experience and the issues that ethnic minorities face in France.

Producer Nelson Ghrenassia, graduated from Paris La Sorbonne with a PHD in Cinema. He has produced more than 15 short films, which were widely broadcast on television and in prestigious festivals including Locarno, Cannes, Palm Springs and Clermont-Ferrand. In 2016, he produced Josza Anjembe’s award winning shortFrench.

Newcomer Grace Seri stars as Seyna, she graduated from the National Drama Academy in Paris and on stage, has worked with many directors including Georges Lavaudant and Sony Labou Tansi. French is her first movie as a lead actress and her talent isn’t going unnoticed, as she has won many best actress awards including at Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.

Included in the many awards, was the Grand Jury Award at New York International Children Film Festival, which was given by Sofia Coppola and Gus Van Sant and is an Oscar qualifying festival. Recent and forthcoming film festivals include, Rhode Island film Festival, Rooftop Film Festival in New-York, Urban World film Festival in New York, in September and Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, in October.

Trailer:

Interview:

To begin with, let’s discuss your latest film – ‘French’, what is it about? Where did the idea come from?

It’s the story of a young teenager who wishes to become French. However, her father doesn’t accept her to do so because he has his own matters to settle with France.

How did you get involved with the project?

The idea came from an experience I lived myself a few years ago. Like Seyna, I was going to take a picture for my passport. As I was wearing an ‘afro’ haircut they told me I was ‘out of frame’ because my hair was exceeding the top of the frame. Unlike the main character however, I was French. So I had the idea to make a movie starting from this event but still tackling the identity issue that can appear from one generation to another.

Lets talk about the cast, who is starring in ‘French’?

They are mostly theatre comedian. It is due to randomness. Grace Seri was coming from the Paris Conservatory when she shot the movie. It was the first time for her. There is also Augustin Ruhabura, who played for years and whom I discovered in another short film. I also knew Mata Gabin, who played the mother, from before. She also plays in the theatre. Regarding the other younger comedians, I chose through my cast director.

To date, ‘French’ has received thirty awards, and has been selected for over 110 prestigious film festivals – what is it like to receive this level of acclaim?

I was not expecting that. I wrote this movie like one can scream out of anger. I didn’t have and still don’t have a career plan. I even didn’t really plan to make this movie. Therefore it’s quite surprising. Each time the audience is different but it is so moving to see the tears of some of them whom are living again events of their own through the movie. It happened in France, Poland, Turkey, Spain. In those moments I feel this movie has something universal in it.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

Strangely my influences come from daily life events. There is not a day in which life or people around me, close people as much as strangers make me live a movie scene. Beside this, I am influenced by many directors. It depends on my mood.

What advice would you give any up and coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

I would advise them not to make movies with the aim of succeeding! Of course we make movies that are meant to be seen. And of course without audience there is no movie. What I mean, and it’s my opinion only, is that everyone has to ask themselves if the movie they make is truly needed. If the answer is yes then it has to be made honestly, patiently and without freaking out! Then, you should gather the right people around you, take advice from them and trust your instincts. There is no recipe to be honest. Every movie has its own path…

When and where can we expect to see ‘French’?

Regarding this you should see with my producer, Nelson Ghrénassia..

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I am currently writing a feature film which is taking all of my time. I am also working on other projects, but I don’t want to rush. I go slowly but surely.

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Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
@FilmDebate
Company Founder & Managing Director

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