The planets aligned for self-declared fanboy French Burkinabé director Cédric Ido, to will his long-gestating sci-fi caper – the futuristic and gritty Parisian-set thriller “The Gravity” into being, despite reluctance from the French film biz to dig into funding for genre movies.
The actor-director deftly mixes up Japanese mythology and a mysterious solar system alignment for a surrealistic take in his second feature that upends the status quo of a Parisian suburb slowly getting engulfed in cosmic chaos.
“The Gravity” played last week as part of the lineup of the 5th Joburg Film Festival in South Africa, with Ido telling Variety the biggest challenge was getting buy-in for the colorful project.
” ‘Gravity’s’ a script that I had in mind for such a long time. At the same time, it’s very personal, like many aspects of the relationship between the characters and also the background – being from the suburbs, the banlieue.”
Ido decided to place “Gravity’s” allegory in a science-fiction mold. “I’ve always wanted to talk about the talented people I’ve met in the banlieue, especially very close people – artists mostly – who were struggling to exist in this place where social racism is so strong.
“When you tell something that personal, you don’t want to be too frontal. I needed to find a personal way to be truthful to my vision which comes from Japanese cinema and science fiction and all these influences I’ve grown up with and that I cherish without being ashamed.
“I like to define myself as a fanboy which is what I want to bring into cinema,” he says.
“Genre helps you to tell a story without being too frontal. I found that incorporating this Japanese mythology into ‘The Gravity’ made sense alongside science fiction. It was the best way to tell this story.”
Ido says funding remains the biggest challenge “the moment you say you want to make something different.”
“People get scared when you say I want to make this type of film but then also add some genre. They go: ‘Oh, we’re not used to this’ – especially if you look at the films coming from France. You don’t see a lot of genre. People are still frightened by it.
“We knew from the beginning we wouldn’t have a lot of money to make this film so we had to be smart. At a certain point, we also knew that we couldn’t go back and do something more traditional So we decided to push the genre even more. We said ‘let’s be truthful to what we want to do.’ I think it was a pretty nice move.”
After the global breakout success of something like Korea’s “Squid Game” on Netflix, is it getting any easier to get an unconventional project greenlit?
“People are still frightened,” he says. “Everybody loved ‘Squid Game’ and everybody watched it. But it’s not an easy move for a producer, for a financer especially, to do it. It is changing. I think the world is seeing the reaction, also in France.”
“People want to see that type of content and at a certain point producers and financers should be able to recognize that, to be able to go for it because we want to see different stuff.
“I’m part of the audience and I want to see new things. Daring things. Not always just the same type of French film. I’m tired of seeing the same films. When I go to the movies I feel that I’ve seen that kind of film before. The proposition has to be refreshing. And I think it’s coming – and it has to.”
To break through as a filmmaker today compared to when he rose through the ranks, Ido isn’t of the opinion that it’s necessarily easier.
“The most important thing young filmmakers have today compared to us is that they have references – models – they can refer to. It’s something I didn’t have at the time.”
“You see a new generation of filmmakers and artists who are emerging – including in France – and that’s what I’m trying to show them: That it’s possible. We had some black pioneers in filmmaking even in France but you never heard of them until I specifically looked for them.”
“I remember at the time, most of my references were from abroad. They were from the United States. They had black directors. The path was hard. Even in Africa, it’s been hard to make films because we’ve been dependent on funding from Europe. Now, a new generation has a bigger perspective – they see that it is really possible.”
“The only way to defy gravity is to do what you love and to be truthful to it because it is possible,” he says.
“I wasn’t supposed to make films. But I pushed the walls. I pushed the ceiling. You need to do the hard work and be passionate about it.”