Eric Lamhene’s short film SERENA was the WILDsound Short Film Festival winner for Best Film, and Best Overall Performances at the October 30 2014 event.
Serena is easily one of the best short films of 2014. A film that is essentially about violence through the lives of privileged teenagers. Watch the Toronto audience feedback video from the festival:
WILDsound’s Matthew Toffolo chatted with Eric about his award winning short film:
Matthew: What motivated you to make this film?
Eric: A few years ago, a twenty-year old man stepped on a girl’s foot in a nightclub in Luxembourg. That girl’s boyfriend started a fight because of this, breaking a bottle and stabbing the 20-year old in the throat. He bled out in the club, in front of everyone. Around the same time, the rate of youth violence drastically increased in Luxembourg. Not a weekend night went by without teenagers beating each other up and the police having to intervene. I wanted to set a story in this climate of increasing readiness for violence among youth, focusing on well-off kids rather than poorer working class kids. The film is about the capacity for violence in all of us and therefore the violence had to be independent of social class, i.e. I didn’t want audiences to leave the cinema and say to themselves that these kids are violent because of their upbringing or their social status, and that therefore this could never happen to their kids. It needed to be more universal than that.
Matthew:. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
Eric: I started writing in 2012. Once we got the money to make the film, I was aiming to shoot in December 2012. Unfortunately, the young actors were not ready to shoot by December (not enough rehearsal time, etc.), which is why we pushed the shoot back, into 2013. Once the 6-day shoot had finished, a lengthy post-production phase started. The film was completely finished in January 2014. All in all, it took about 2 years to make “Serena”.
Matthew: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Eric: I would not call it an obstacle, but rather the big challenge of the film: working with young (non-)actors. Out of the four teenagers, two had never acted before. Professional actors with many years of experience will give you the performance you need and can easily adapt to changes on set. They know what each movement of their body looks like, i.e. they control their body exactly to help express the emotion they want to express. Teenage actors have much less experience and often are unable to see themselves from the outside, i.e. how their movements and body language affect how we perceive the emotion within. The wrong body movement can make the emotion within seem fake and played. Thus, the entire shoot was about helping them express what they felt inside for us to see, making sure their performances were real and truly felt by them at all times.
Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Eric: Whereas TOKYO STORY (dir. Yasujio Ozu) is my favourite film, I have seen BATTLE ROYALE (dir. Kinji Fukasaku) more often. This is probably due to the fact that I have seen the latter many years before TOKYO STORY. As you can tell, I love Japanese cinema.
Matthew: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Eric: I was really happy to see that the audience picked up on the various themes of the film and that a lively exchange followed the screening. The film was meant to make the viewer feel uncomfortable so that he or she will still think about it and talk about the violence it portrays long after the lights in the room have come back up. “Serena” is not meant to give answers, but further discussion about violence between people living in a given society. It is less of a “why did they do what they did ?” and more of a “this type of violence does exist and how can it be adressed?”.
Oh, and I liked that everyone called the main actor “the ginger kid”. I will tell him that. He hates that. 😉
Matthew: What is next for you? A new film?
Eric: I am currently developing a story that is to become a feature film in the coming years. I am still at the very early stages, but I can already tell you that it will again be set in Luxembourg and that it will be a thriller.
Matthew: Besides filmmaking, what else are you passionate about?
Eric: I like to travel. My wife is from Singapore, so I have the chance to visit Asia quite frequently.
Go to http://www.wildsound.ca/torontofilmfestivals.html and see the lineup for the next WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival event.