One of the most unexpected and fulfilling conversations of One World Romania, the film festival for Human Rights, was with film producer, Catherine Dussart, whose blue glittering eyes lighted the whole room and brought worlds for me to see and feel at the same time.
We are talking about The Missing Picture, which won the Cannes Award (2013) and it was nominated at the Oscar Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (2014). How do you feel about the international impact of the movie? The presentation of the figurines in wax it is unique.
Catherine Dussart: It is not wax, it is clay, because the director wanted them to be as fragile as the human destiny. It is clay, because it is the human destiny to go back to earth and to fade it it. I think it was a wonderful award to well welcomed everywhere in the world, because it was a very difficult film for the director to make, because Rithy Panh lived in that period and to make it a movie it was very painful. He lost a part of the family and he made this movie because he wanted to give an image to all the victims of the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, that were committed between 1975 and 1979. Before he was making a movie about the general history in Cambodia, but for the first time he decided to speak up for what touched him more intimately. And I think it is very courageous to make that thought.
What are your duties as a film producer?
Catherine Dussart:To try to help the director to know how he wants to say and how he wants to tell it, which form he wants to give to the film. And of course to find the funds to allow him to make the film. He explores new forms everytime and he needs a lot of time to make his work.
Was it difficult to find funds?
Catherine Dussart:It was not easy, but what was difficult was that Rithy Panh did not know what he would say before starting to make the movie. There was the script, but there was not a real story that we were going to pitch, so it was difficult for the investors what they were going to have at the end of making the film. It is easier when the director writes very precisely what he wants to do, but at the same time, Rithy Panh’s work is recognized, so it is easier to find funds for someone whose work is appreciated.
You also work with Rithy Panh at his latest movie.
Catherine Dussart:The Missing Picture was the eight movie I produced for him. We are now at the tenth movie that we are doing together.
Can you tell me about your professional relationship with him?
Catherine Dussart:I met Rithy Panh 20 years ago when he did his first film about the people in Ghana. He liked to film a lot and I asked him if he liked to do a script, which was very beautiful, but which happened in Japan. He told me: I have a lot of things to say in my country, so you should come and see how it is, so I came and he was preparing his second film and after we decided to work together. Sometimes he wants to make fiction films, sometimes it is a documentary film. He asked me to buy rights for books he wanted to adapt.