AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Justine Harbonnier on ANDREW KEEGAN IS MOVING

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JUSTINE HARBONNIERFilmmaker Justine Harbonnier takes us to Montreal, where the city’s oldest house is being moved to make way for posh modern condos. Her profound and poetic film reflects her questions about how such moves impact a neighborhood and its residents, and others who pass by without even noticing these changes that effect the future of their city. Read what she has to day about making the film and her future plans.

How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

I started to film the Griffintown’s district in Montreal in 2013. I was quite fascinated by this place. The old buildings, abandoned factories, the empty river, the homeless people sleeping under huge billboards announcing the city of the future. I was wondering how to tell the story of this territory. I knew at this point that I did not want to make a “traditional documentary.” I wanted to create something different, something a bit absurd, in the image of this place. So two years later, when I learned that the oldest house of the district, Andrew Keegan’s house, was being moved through the streets, I knew that the film was born. When I started to film the removal, lots of pictures of the past few years kept coming to my mind. I could see this woman pushing her rollator and these men, waiting and chatting. Finally, the house became the main character of the film. It has changed the urban space in a kind of theatrical stage.

What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

I certainly learned a lot but what matters to me was asking questions. Ask questions and take the time to observe the city. How promote a city? And what are the consequences on the territory and its population? Before I decided to make this film, I was not really paying attention to this. I could say: oh there is again a new building! Or notice: this old tiny cute house doesn’t exist anymore!, but I didn’t really feel concerned. But more I have spent time walking in Griffintown’s streets, talking to people, and read about the history, more I have started to realize how very powerful political issues are playing just under our eyes. Entrepreneurs buy the places and decide the city of the future. During their little talks with politics, people move from place to place, again and again, like little chess moves on a board. So I wanted take the time of the observation. Just siting and looking what is around us is a big luxury. I don’t want to deliver a message. I want to invite people to look around them and, again, ask questions.

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What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

I started to film 2 years before I finished the film. At the beginning, I had no idea where the film was going. It was scary and exciting in the same time. It’s what I like about documentary, you have no other choices than follow the flow. So I learned to not force things and to believe in my instinct. I also learned to take my time. The time and trust are very precious, I think.

What were your biggest challenges?

Doing almost everything on my own. Few close friends helped me, but it was very exhausting and concerning to be alone. In the future, I don’t think that I want to reiterate this kind of experience. Or maybe only for little and quick projects.

Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

 No, I don’t think so. I don’t think this isabout being a woman or a man. I think this is more about deep feelings and deep reflections that are different in every single person. Our role, as filmmakers, is to go deeply as possible in ourselves in order to deliver a unique message. Each artist – regardless of gender – has their own way to do it.

What are your plans for the future?

I am working on my next film. It will takes place in a little town of hippies in New Mexico, USA. Again, I want to explore a territory that fascinates me. But this time, the main character will not be an house, but a gorgeous woman named Caiti Lord!

Who are the Filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

Agnes Varda. I watched Les Plages d’Agnes when I was in university and it changed my life. I came quite late to cinema. Before, I was studying literature. I love Filmmakers that are not afraid to take risk : Chantal Akerman (All Night Long, one of the best!), Jean-Charles Hue, Zia Zangke, Abdellatif Kechiche and many others. I also love Bergman and Jacques Demy, or Tati, who very inspired me for this film.

What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

Find your own voice and fight your way through that. Find trust worthy people to walk with you. Don’t let people tell you what you are supposed to think and how making your art. Never forget that you have something unique to say, and be thankful for this. This is a gift. You have to fight to express it. And make yoga.

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