IF YOU SAW HIS HEART

What happens between the highlights?

Case study of a debut feature with the director Joan Chemla. The film based on Cuban author Guillermo Rosales' 1987 novel Boarding Home was premiered in Platform section at Toronto International Film Festival.


Daniel is cast out of his community after the death of his best friend. He finds refuge in a hotel for castaways and broken souls and drifts into crime. An unexpected ray of light enlivens his existence when he meets Francine.

"Whenever you film the margins of society, whenever you explore a political or social topic, there’s a tendency to film it with a handheld camera, to emphasize the darkness, the seediness of it all... I don’t identify with that approach and find it too self-evident. On the contrary, I wanted a loose aesthetic where I could contrast from very dark to very bright. First of all, I believe in the power of lyricism, in the destabilizing capacity of biting humor, and the emotion of dark romanticism. I wanted to make a film that was political, but also sensory. One that you would feel before understanding."
Joan Chemla


This dark cinematic adaptation of Boarding Home is an intriguing fusion of genres. A cross between film noire and romantic melodrama. The original novel tells the story of a Cuban, who is exiled in Miami. Chemla went about transposing the very different social and political contexts: "In the US, Latinos are scapegoats who are shot at from the border. When looking for an equivalent community in France, I thought of the Romani people, then the Gypsies. I, myself, am the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, and a part of my family was deported during the Second World War. Choosing this community and the subject of exile spoke to me personally. Another question I asked was: what is the equivalent of a boarding home in France? And the hotel social came to mind. Every year, there are so many stories about these places and the slumlords that run them. I did a lot of research on the subject, met a lot of people, visited squalid apartments with rents that were more or less regulated... Monsieur Ali is one of these slumlords. This very concrete social reality really interested me, but I didn’t want to film it frontally," said the director.  

Directed by: Joan Chemla
Screenplay by: Joan Chemla, Santiago Amigorena
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Marine Vacth, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Karim Leklou           
Cinematography: André Chemetoff
Music by: Gabriel Yared
Edited by: Béatrice Herminie

France
2017
86 minutes