Hot tempered and fiercely independent, Julia finds escape in a passion for motorcycles and the high-octane world of urban ‘Rodeos’ – illicit gatherings where riders show off their bikes and their latest daring stunts. After a chance meeting at a Rodeo Julia finds herself drawn into a clandestine and volatile clique and, striving to prove herself to the ultra-masculine group, she is faced with a series of escalating demands that will make or break her place in the community.
Interview with Lola Quivoron (director) and Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam (author)
Lola, how did you come across this environment that you film in Rodeo but also in your short film Au loin Baltimore ?
LQ: It’s an environment I know since I was a child, when I lived in the suburbs of Paris and I saw young people doing motocross in front of my building. I met the young people of Au Loin Baltimore in 2015 while I was still at Femis. It was the summer. I had come across videos on social media of kids who were cross-bituming and called themselves Dirty Riderz Crew. I contacted the leader of the group, Pack, who invited me to spend some time on their training line in a suburb of Paris. That day, I was really taken by it. It was a physical encounter. The engines are very strong, what they do quite brutal, it’s very impressive. They cross each other on lines that are narrow two-way roads. I went back there about fifty times and I became friends with them. I wanted to understand the environment, its rules, its philosophy etc. What is this practice? Why do they do it? Who are these young people? Au Loin Baltimore, my graduation short film, dealt with the practice of ‘cross-bitumen’ in a rather ‘naturalistic’ way. And since 2015, I have never stopped spending time in this environment, and documenting it, with clips, short films, or photo reports.
Rodeo, my first feature film, written over a period of nearly 5 years, was built on a more assertive relationship with fiction. When I went with the Dirty Riderz Crew on the lines, I was often the only girl. The few others were either on the back of the bikes or on the side of the road, but hardly any of them rode. That’s also why I invented the character of Julia: it responded to a rather intimate desire to see this dream of joining a community come true.
Rodeo was born out of the meeting with the community I had been following for years and my intimate desire to see a young woman rider one day lift her bike. Rodeo is for me an epic and ‘sur-naturalist’ film. It goes beyond the naturalism of Au Loin Baltimore, in its relationship to colour, narrative and direction. It pushes filmmaking to the very limit. We shot with an Arri Alexa Mini camera, in a cinemascope format (2:39), with anamorphic Master Prime lenses. Like the classic westerns. This gives a spectacular strength to the documentary look that I also wanted to preserve. I wanted to make people physically feel the bodies carried away by the speed and adrenaline of ‘bike-life.’ To show the brutal side of it, the relationship to death, to the asphalt.
Before Au Loin Baltimore , you directed Stand , a short film in which you filmed a shooting range in Paris. This is also a predominantly male environment, but in which you featured a woman. Can you tell us about the recurrence of this motif in your films?
LQ: What interested me was the exploration of this closed universe, a place cut off from the ordinary world. We plunge ourselves into a closed, secure, very masculine and very codified environment. The clients are mainly men, cops, former soldiers or civilians who are learning to use their weapons. I was fascinated by their rituals, their technical language, and the way they deploy their weapons as appendages of themselves.
In this system, we see Sandra, the woman who helped manage the place, to organise it. She was passionate about all calibres, a champion markswoman. She immediately appeared to me as a character in her own right, a warrior who was a bit of an outsider to this environment, an unusual heroine. I quickly became attached to her – I think there was a bit of a mirror effect. The film tells the story of her journey within this very virile world.
I believe that Stand sets up something that I will unpack in all my other films. Each time, I bring my gaze to worlds that are largely dominated by the male gaze and male bodies. I am like a foreign figure amongst them. This is clearly a very recurrent motif of writing and directing, which allows me to produce fiction, to question the reality of gender stereotypes, to propose an atypical, almost ‘alien’ look. I look at things from my difference.
EBT: What’s funny is that the first time I met you Lola, you already talked to me about systems. I think that’s an important word for you: infiltrating a system, understanding a system.
LQ: I do love to get inside a system, to look at it from the inside, to understand how it works and to deconstruct it. I like to lose myself in this exploration, to take the time to research how I am going to look at things, to choose my place to tell the story.
It reassures me a lot to think that the paradigms of a great system of thought, for example, can be destroyed. For some years now, there has been a lot of talk about ‘deconstruction,’ about deconditioning, especially of women in relation to what is expected of them. How to become again the subject who has a gaze. How to get out of the injunctions conditioned by the dominant male gaze. How not to reproduce the violence of certain power relationships? The phenomena of deconstruction are forms of inner revolution that are a big driving force for me, that make me think about politics in a very concrete way. It’s an incredible basis on which to build a world that would give more place to diversity, to how many identities there are out there and how they’re represented, to non-binarity, but also to the unexpected, to the beauty of monsters, to the incongruous, to the strange and to eclecticism etc.
Rodeo is also a system film. However, within this system, the characters are never reduced to the masculine image they convey. Each one exists individually and collectively and escapes any assignment to an identity.
LQ: I worked a lot on the journey of each character, how they grow, and how in their evolution over the course of the story, they sometimes challenge our beliefs and norms of representation.
The character of Julia aka Stranger (Inconnu) is a perfect example. It surprises us because it escapes the fixity of a single, uniform representation. Her face changes all the time, her outfits, her traits. She performs multiple figures, navigates between genres, codes, social environments. At the beginning of the film, it’s difficult to follow her, to pin her down. She escapes, eluding a static image of her. She is driven by a passion, by an irrepressible desire to live differently and elsewhere, to redraw horizons.
Interview by Marilou Duponchel, Production notes
A film by: Lola Quivoron
©: CG Cinéma
With the participation of: Les Films du Losange, Canal+
Production Company: CG Cinéma
With the participation of: Ciné+
With the support of: Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine
In partnership with: CNC
In collaboration with: Alca, Procirep, Angoa
In association with: Cinémage 16
Produced by: Charles Gillibert
Script Supervisor: Alexia Montegu
Casting Director: Julie Allione
Written by: Lola Quivoron
With the collaboration of: Antonia Buresi, Cédric Anger, Camille Lugan
Stills: Vincent Desailly
Visual Effects Supervisor: Anthony Lestremau
Special Effects Supervisor: Raphaël Guionnet
Editor: Rafael Torres Calderón
Art Director: Gabrielle Desjean
Costume Designer: Rachèle Raoult
Key Make-up and Hair: Julia Boisselier
Original Music Composed by: Kelman Duran
Supervising Sound Operator: Lucas Doméjean
Sound Mixer: Victor Praud
Sound Editor: Geoffrey Perrier, Lucas Doméjean
Stunt Supervisor: Mathieu Lardot, LM Stunt
Julie Ledru (Julia, aka Inconnu)
Yannis Lafki (Kais)
Antonia Buresi (Ophelia)
Cody Schroeder (Kylian)
Junior Correia (Manel)
Louis Sotton (Ben)
Ahmed Hamdi (Mous)
Mustapha Dianka (Clark)
Dave Nsaman (Abra)
Sébastien Schroeder (Domino)
Chris Makodi (William)
Mohamed Bettahar (Amine)
Brice Straehli (Yan)
Peter Lamarque (Mr Ferrand)
Emile Berling, Mathieu Lardot (salesmen)
Antoni Vidal (Ruben)
Jean-Pierre Gérard (overseer)
Julien Duvernoy, Benjamin Fortin, Dylan Foudrinois, Mathieu Julien, Sébastien Lecouvreur, Zinedine Toumi, Jordan Yeponde (Dirty Riderz crew)
Thylian Fontaine, Jean Cano (kids)
Kenzo Tarbouche, Prince Longo (teenagers)
Suzanna Schroeder (teenage girl)
Gianni Caira (Julia’s brothers)
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