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Ariane Falardeau St-Amour

Paul Chotel

A thick, dark night furtively pierced by the light of a bulb that instantly goes off. This is how we enter Night Detour, a sensual drift in two movements, whose key motifs are darkness and disappearance. The story is set in a heavenly village on the Mexican west coast. To the west is the Pacific Ocean, immense, ominous, tumultuous, and on the opposite side is the jungle, lush, thick and populated by all sorts of animals. Violeta Martinez was born there. She was a young figure- skater who disappeared one day – a piece of news serving as an excuse for a drifting journey – with a Canadian journalist trying to trace her. We hardly see the journalist, only her back, or from a distance, morphing into the hot and muffled atmosphere, as she narrates her ongoing investigation, following the serpentine lines of myths and local stories. Natives, tourists, hippies stranded on the beach: all are prey to a sort of numbness and all seem to have lost their memory when it comes to reminisce about Violeta. For, “standing here facing the sea, you forget everything, don’t you?” Carried forward by a synthetic, enchanting and 70s-style soundtrack, Desvío de noche taps into the codes of the fantastic and noir films all the better to generate confusion between reality and fiction. The camera is a discreet detective that glides slowly, observing from afar, searching for clues through personal feuds or among the foliage. Following the itinerary of two men with wind- and weather-beaten faces, the narrator and journalist pushes into the forest. Almost one hour into the film, upon the actual detour in the night (Desvío de noche), the title appearance on screen is not a disruption but it rather marks the absorption of characters into the recesses of the jungle where all sense of perspective disappears. Wordlessly, through a rumbling, ubiquitous nature, the film registers the passage from one world to the other, inviting spectators to get lost in it.
(Louise Martin Papasian)Ariane Falardeau St-Amour Paul Chotel

Interview with Ariane Falardeau St-Amour & Paul Chotel

Following in the footsteps of Violeta Martinez, a figure skater who mysteriously disappeared, the film takes us to a small village on the southwestern coast of Mexico, albeit unnamed. How did you discover this place and why did you decide to set the film there, without providing precise geographical references?

We discovered the village of Zipolite by chance and most of the scenes were shot there. The desire to make a film was born from our meeting with some of the residents. We wanted to spend more time with them and get to know them. Cinema can sometimes be a good excuse to create a space for meeting people. This was ours. Most of these people form the core cast of the film, or have provided considerable inspiration for it. We then got to know the village and its history in more depth through documentary research. As we spent time there, we felt the need to move away from reality by creating a fictional village where stories we had been told and stories we had made up would come together. The name of the place faded in the process.

The figure of the Canadian journalist who investigates the disappearance remains just as elusive, almost like a phantasmagorical presence whose voice we essentially hear without her image being truly conveyed to us. Why did you opt for this treatment?

There were several reasons for this choice. In many ways, we shared the journalist’s point of view. All our clumsiness, our naivety, all our missed and failed encounters fed into her part. We didn’t feel the need to make her a character in her own right, but more a vehicle that would guide us through her investigation. Her presence would be felt through the way we would film her. She is both the main character of the film and always on the periphery. For us, removing the journalist from the film meant giving more space to the other protagonists. More concretely, the fact of not showing the journalist gave us great flexibility and freedom during the shoot, so that we could be ready to shoot at any time, but above all without being in a hurry. In a more traditional production context, it would have been impossible for us to make Desvío de noche. Then there is this simple idea: you never really see yourself in your own memory. Our memories are selective – they tell us more about ourselves than about what really happens. Not seeing the journalist casts doubt on the authenticity of what we are shown.

In this investigation, the camera’s point of view is often ambiguous, and while initially it would seem to show us the “distorted memories and the vague impressions” that the journalist has kept from her journey, over time the points of view of several furtive observers seem to overlap. Can you tell us what ideas guided the direction of the photography?

It’s the urge to make not an adventure film, but an adventure of the eye. We wanted the cinematography to allow us to feel the shift in perception of events as the film unfolds. In the first part, we worked on the off-screen, the obstruction, the reflections, in order to take an oblique look at the village. As if we didn’t have access to the entire picture. In the second part, the elements that inhabited the background of the first part are brought up to the foreground. Our way of framing the space is wider, less stylised, in order to bring a different view of both the space and time itself. Our imagination was constructed through the stories we were told, everyone had their own version and it was impossible to know which was true. So we wanted to explore different perspectives but also to borrow from different genres and film codes in order to reflect the different faces of the village.

The local people are more than just extras, they play a key role. How did you involve them in the project and how did you work together?

Actually, it all started with some important meetings, then came the writing of the script. The villagers were always at the center of the process. The roles we created, together with them, were very close to who they really are. The development was quite long, with many meetings, rehearsals and adjustments. This was particularly the case with Abdallah Touaïmia and Ricardo Flores Aguirre, who almost single-handedly carry the second part of the film. We would arrive with a scene structure that we would discuss with them; we would shoot it leaving a lot of room for improvisation and then rewrite the scenes based on this material. We would shoot their scenes again, several times, sometimes several weeks apart, and together we would slowly find the tone, the right way of filming.

About two-thirds of the way through the film, we abandon what seemed to be the main thread and go on a detour, as the title rightly suggests. How did this idea come about? Did you imagine it from the start?

This idea of a film in two parts was there from the beginning of the project. We felt that this village, its experience, could not be portrayed in one way. That the places don’t reveal themselves to us in this way and that part of the village would always remain misunderstood. The second part was always intended to be short on words, short on revelations, just time and the passing of life. We wanted to bring a second perspective on the village and leave the journalist and her investigation behind.

In the second part, we observe a peculiar duo struggling with a mysterious activity. A form of resistance against the collapse of a utopian dream?

Exactly! It’s a way of experiencing this second part that speaks to us a lot, but there are several ways of interpreting it. We wanted to leave a lot of room for the duo formed by Abdul and Richie – so we didn’t want to say too much, or burden them with too much text whilst trying to capture their incredible presence. Filming this second part was extremely pleasant. It was subtle work, with much attention paid to looks and small movements -silence was essential. We simply let ourselves be enveloped in their night.

Interviewed by Marco Cipollini

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Technical sheet

Canada / 2022 / Colour / 97’

Original version : spanish, french
Subtitles : english, french
Script : Ariane Falardeau St-Amour, Paul Chotel
Photography : Ariane Falardeau St-Amour
Editing : Paul Chotel, Omar Elhamy
Music : Gabriel Chwojnik
Sound : Julián Darby Carmona, Samuel Gagnon-Thibodeau
Casting : Abdellatif Touaïmia, Ricardo Flores Aguirre, Martine Francke, Marie Brassard, Janet Martinez Aragón, Carlos Gerardo Ticó Moreno, Alma Aguilar Peralta, Sylviane Le Metais, Álvaro Rojo, Santiago Bustamante Vasquez, Saul Javier Coronel Buaun, Esteban Cabrera Reyes, Luis Roberto Ordaz Rodriguez

Production : Jeanne Dupuis, Omar Elhamy, Simon Allard (9401-1863 Québec Inc.).