A Ready-made Crowd

When Paris-based film director Patrick Hadjadj needed a crowd demonstration for his short film Le Citron vert (The Lime), playing at the Francophone Film Festival on Thursday, October 6, he had two choices.

As he told me when I spoke with him in France last month, either he could go out and pay big bucks to hire a slew of extras, or he could piggyback his film on an actual demonstration.

He chose the latter course, inserting his principal actors into the action around a demonstration calling for increased education funding in France.

Filmed in 2009, Le Citron vert is a sometimes biting satire on the life of one Simon, a young man given up to the cause of social revolution and meetings, meetings, more meetings, whose level of personal commitment to the women in his life falls far short of his revolutionary ideals.

Hadjadj’s flexibility is typical of a life that has sometimes deviated from expectations, and has frequently risen to challenges.

Born in 1971 in Lyon, France, Hadjadj had always wanted to be a writer, but his ambition met with disapproval from family and friends, “Because if you are a writer, you are living under the bridges”.

Hadjadj ended up getting his degree in mathematics, but says that he was saved by the army from having to put it to use.

Stationed in Grenoble for his one year of compulsory military service after graduation in 1996, he found himself away from family and friends, which he found to be somewhat of a relief.

He went to the theatre often, primarily to meet women, and found that his interest in the arts was also rekindled. So in 1997, at the end of his army hitch, he moved to Paris and enrolled in French literature studies at the Sorbonne, obtaining his Masters degree in 1999.

Hadjadj subsequently became involved with a fringe theatre group, Le Théâtre de Proposition, where he came to be in charge of selecting plays to perform.

One of his first choices was Israël, a play about anti-semitism by French playwright Henri Bernstein. No one else wanted to work on the project, both because of the play’s archaic language, and because of the unpopularity of the play’s female lead.

Bernstein had written the play in 1909, and although he was immensely popular in the late 1800s, he had been largely forgotten in the 20th century, except for French film director Alan Resnais’ 1986 remake of Bernstein’s play Mélo.

Israël drew favourable reviews in both Le Monde and Le Figaro, but when it closed, Hadjadj found himself out of pocket, since he had taken on the role of both director and producer.

Hadjadj went on to pursue his first dream of writing plays, and eventually gravitated into film. His first four short films have been well received at regional film festivals in Europe, and he’s currently at work on his first feature, about the war in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime.

Le Citron vert can be seen on Thursday, October 6 as part of a free showing of a selection of short films in French, many with English sub-titles, starting at 7 pm in the Centre de la francophonie on Strickland St.

It is the kick-off event for the 10th annual Francophone Film Festival, which runs October 6-9., with most screenings at the Old Fire Hall.

For more information, check the website for l’Association franco-yukonnaise at http://www.afy.yk.ca

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