Interview with Romain Dumont, director of Au plaisir les ordures ! (See You Garbage!)
Tuesday 1 February 2022, by ,
For Christmas, three garbage collectors, Elijah, Nino and Belz, are surprised to be invited to dinner at the home of the Prime Minister and the First Lady. They go there, enthusiastic and candid, without suspecting that on the menu is a painful series of disillusionments and manipulations. Au plaisir les ordures is a dramatic comedy with the feel of a revolutionary tale, which attempts to explore the encounter between the well-spoken contempt of the political class and a sudden awareness of its people.
For your second short film, you chose to address the subject of class contempt and the mechanisms of social domination. Did current events, works of fiction or documentaries or even readings fuel this choice?
I don’t see how current events could have inspired me to address class contempt, knowing that the very idea of class struggle has been removed from all the news. As soon as you talk about it, you feel like you have an anachronistic view of the world. So if you have to film it, you feel a Stalinist mustache begin to grow. The last time the news reported this class contempt was at the time of the first unionization of Starbucks in Buffalo. I was surprised that this news appeared in the mainstream media. The idea of the film came clearly to me while researching the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and by coming across this notorious day of 24 December 1974. To me, it sounded like the premise of an Aki Kaurismaki movie…
You worked as a screenwriter before moving on to directing. How did you approach writing the script for Au plaisir les ordures?
With the idea that I was going to have to sell everything in my apartment on Kijiji (the Quebecois eBay) to make this film. I had already taken out a loan from the bank for my first film, so it wasn’t possible to do the same for the second. I approached the writing keeping in mind that every word in the script was going to cost me something. It may seem silly and restrictive, but it is an exercise that I like more and more. In any case, minimalism is in fashion these days.
What directions did you give to Steve Laplante and Caroline Dhavernas to embody this dominant couple?
None. I’d like to make something up, but I wasn’t going to start telling Steve and Caroline what to do. From the start, it was out of the question for me… They were already doing the film for free, so I wasn’t going to give them a hard time.
What guided your choice of Guillaume Laurin, Hamza Meziani, and Hamidou Savadogo to play the three garbage collectors?
The first time I met Hamidou Savadogo, he didn’t want to hear about my “shitty film”, he wanted to tell me his childhood stories with Thomas Sankara. I already knew a bit about this “African Che Guevara”, so each of his stories fascinated me. Not once did we talk about the film or confirm his presence on the project, it was as if we both tacitly moved past the fact that this was evident. I met Hamza in Belleville, his adopted neighborhood, with his clique of friends, among whom the neighborhood star, Rabah Naït Oufellah. Fortunately, I had just discovered Thierry De Peretti and his film Apaches in which Hamza acts magnificently, as always. When he told me that he often returns to Corsica to help out in the family butcher shop, I realized that not only did I have an exceptional actor before me, but also an exceptional human being. I sent him the script upon my return to Montreal. Guillaume Laurin was less a discovery and more a conquest. If you observe garbage collectors for a moment, there is one thing that jumps out at you; it is a job that forces you to be authentic. For me, Guillaume is a great actor because of his authenticity, we never sense his intentions. He’s rid himself of them – or sufficiently interiorized them. As he is a very busy actor, I had to convince him to be part of the project. We first met over a coffee during the third wave, I think it was his way of testing my limits.
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
All the films that were not financed. I have a hard time forgiving the mediocracy.
What’s your definition of a good film?
My obsession with scriptwriting has long been a handicap. I feel that I haven’t been able to answer this question until just recently, yet it is obvious what a good film is. It is first of all a film that assumes itself as a cinematographic work. Forgive my tautology, but what I mean is that you have to know what cinema is to make a good film. It’s not a filmed novel, it’s not a filmed play either. On this level, I feel that cinema is cruelly lacking in inventiveness. A good film is one that makes choices; that doesn’t show everything or say everything. I think I understood this watching A Man Escaped by Robert Bresson.