• French Competition



Pauline Bastard

Or four people who don’t know each other, getting together for a very ordinary week of “family” holidays every year. The normative middle-class “family” they form spends time in seaside towns from the Mediterranean coast to Brittany. The fifty-something “parents” and the two twenty-something “children” were filmed over four summers from 2017 to 2020. Over the course of this collaborative process, which Pauline Bastard is still continuing, the characters take shape and bonds are forged. Between reality TV (minus the voyeurism), the weekly TV series and fiction, this procedure borrowed from performance art offers a uniquely crafted movie. What emerges is the exploration of an area that is rare in films, the representation of the “middle classes” in nondescript landscapes – identical rented apartments, beaches neither too deserted nor too crowded. The result is a gallery of characters and situations portrayed without judgement, without glamour, without drama, in an everyday life that’s supposed to be exceptional – the holidays! – but shot in lifeless, unexceptional movement. Although initially, each summer was going to be made into an independent film, Pauline Bastard decides to pick out elements, avoiding the clichés of summer, and constructs a chronicle of the ordinary, between the real and imagined lives of the characters. Gradually stripped of particular intentions and any false interiority, their bodies move, their words become rare, time settles down and the film invents its own horizon.

Nicolas Feodoroff

As an artist and filmmaker, the starting point for your movies are very specific protocols based on performance, for example Les Adversaires (FID 2022), which challenges political discourse. Can you tell us a little more about how this project originated and the principles of the protocol you set up? About the choice to focus on the family, on family ties, to be more precise? 

The project began in 2016 with the idea to create a family that exists each summer during a week’s holiday, the duration of a film shoot. Little by little, forms emerge from this approach. Béatrice, Alix, Harmandeep and Franck have been making up this family since they met at the auditions. 

Before this family, I had a project called Alex, where I was trying to integrate someone into society. We created an association so that Alex had a legal existence, a bank account and a job. And then there was the whole emotional side of Alex; he had a small group of close friends who helped him, as well as friends from a dance club and all the people he’d met throughout his life. It fascinated me to see that the project had created ties between its participants, and even with the public; the people who came to see Alex became kind of attached to him, there was a lot of material (9 hours of film) and they followed him during a difficult experience but one that concerns all of us (becoming a person). I wanted to pursue my work by thinking about these ties that it created around him, and I got the idea to create a family. Building Family Ties is a specific study of the emotional ties that are forged when people spend time together. Alix, Harmandeep, Franck and Béatrice spent a week on holiday together every year, and each year, I made one or a few little films; I also made longer films over several years. 

What about your interest in incorporating fiction into reality, and vice versa? 

I have the impression of reproducing structures in order to understand them… In life, things are organised in a certain way, there’s a framework, patterns: you’re a person, and around you there’s the family, society, etc. These forms of organisation, of reproduction, intrigue me and I had the idea that trying to reproduce them makes it possible to look at them and think about them. The family that Alix, Harmandeep, Franck and Béatrice form lies somewhere between reality and fiction.
It’s not real life, and that takes a little of the pressure off, but it’s not fiction either, nothing is particularly pre-defined and we really experience things. It’s a kind of sidestep to create a little distance, to observe things. 

With my projects, I try to bring people into this parallel space to spend some time together over a question; it’s a form of collective reflection through experience. The film is the produced form and it’s a kind of pretext to spend this time together, to make a certain quality of time exist. This family is an interlude with regard to real life, and I think that coincides with the fact that they’re permanently on holiday. The project led me to film this special moment, with the film’s characters but also in general, on holiday and what that produces, such as the relationship with time and the scenery, the setting. 

How did you go about choosing the characters? And, of course, these four ‘actors’? 

I organised – or rather, badly organised – an audition, I booked an Airbnb and made the people come in as soon as they arrived; it led to strange groups and I asked them to imagine how they thought they could be a family. What I liked about my family is that they didn’t pretend to be a family, they began to discuss the project and think about love; they thought about if it were perhaps possible to reproduce affection, and I said to myself that this might work. 

How did you write the various situations on screen? 

We filmed the situations that we invented as we went along. They’re quite peaceful holidays, we go to the beach, into the garden, etc. It was really like being on holiday – over breakfast we’d decide what we were going to do that day. Then, the situations defined themselves in front of the camera. As the years went by, we got to know each other better and better, we began to know what we like doing, but that didn’t stop us from experimenting with new things. 

In the beginning, you had episodes, each linked to a summer from 2017 to 2020. During the editing, you decided to keep the chronology but to use it all as a whole. Why? How did you proceed for the editing? 

The project produced forms as time went by. This film doesn’t cancel out the others, there are one or several films each year and films that take longer. I’m interested in devising several edits with the same material. This edit over four years couldn’t give as many details as the annual films. That seems quite logical to me, and that’s how memory works – little by little, the details fade and you’re left with an impression of moments. This edit is a bit like the bin of all the films I’ve made over the last 4 years, the times before and after a discussion, before and after an event. I wanted to edit it like a kind of photo album. Gradually, I removed all the dialogue. The silences seemed to me to be the best moments to observe what’s going on between the characters. 

You’ve carried on since then. Is this a project without end?

Yes, it’s a long-term project! We decided we’d carry on as long as possible. Without wanting to, Béatrice has drifted away from the project slightly because she didn’t come twice, so the following times we went without her. But you’ll see that in the next film. 

Interview by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • French Competition
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Technical sheet

France / 2023 / 54’

Rights holder
Pauline Bastard