ITW – Olga, the tug of a teenager. between his passion and his country

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Olga“, Elie Grappe’s first feature film is in the Oscar race for best international film. The film tells the story of a young Ukrainian gymnast, who wants to secure a place in the Swiss national team while demonstrations shake his country Meeting with the director.

Elie Grappe chose to place the plot during the riots in Kiev in 2013 and 2014. A journalist, mother of a young gymnast, remains in Ukraine to participate in the events while her daughter Olga, recently arrived in Switzerland, is training for the Olympics.

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The 27-year-old director was guest of Benjamin Smadja

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The idea for the film came to Elie Grappe after a meeting with a Ukrainian violinist during one of his first shoots: “she arrived in Switzerland just before the Maidan revolution”, he explains to Keystone-ATS .

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The young man, originally from Lyon and living in French-speaking Switzerland, continues: “The images of the revolution, taken by the demonstrators, have permeated even his practice of the violin.”

Thanks to this meeting, Elie Grappe finds the key to launching his first feature film, that is to say “at the same time filming the passion of a teenager for gymnastics. And at the same time putting them face to face. individual and collective issues. “

The snap of the metal bar

“My character has a question: how to reconcile her individual desire with the course of the story, with what is happening around her. The whole staging articulates that”.

The contrast is striking between the archive images of the riots, taken by demonstrators – the production of the film has acquired the rights to it – and the timeless setting of the mountains that can be seen from Macolin, where the young gymnast trains. in exile. “Switzerland is the country where the character is both the safest and the furthest from what is happening at home, since it is a country which is at the center of Europe but outside it. ‘EU. At the same time Euromaiden revolutionaries in Ukraine are calling for rapprochement with Europe rather than Russian interference. “

“This tension between gymnastics and documentary images of revolution is also what my character experiences. These two images have nothing to do with each other and at the same time keep colliding.”

For sound, it is roughly the same lexical field: the banging of the metal bar echoes those of the blows during the demonstrations. “And that’s exactly what the heroine is going through, which is that she can’t come back to the gym without being in the violence of Kiev.”

“And with gymnastics, it is also an exercise from a point of view: you had to be up toOlga in his search for balance, lightness, dizziness. “

Powerful bodies

Filming the bodies of young girls could be tricky at the moment. He must have escaped the determinism of her gaze.

To achieve this, he surrounded himself with people who could contradict him, confront what would be his preconceptions, such as the screenwriter, with whom he wrote. For Ukraine, he met sociologists and historians. And for gymnastics he went from the very beginning of writing to Macolin and the Ukrainian Olympic Center.

“Very concretely, there is no male equivalent in gymnastics of a Nadia Comaneci or a Simones Biles. Girls do things that boys cannot do. And I find that it is not. nothing to observe. “

“All the more so today, the bodies of young girls so marked by their practice, by their passion. And the bodies of powerful young girls, in the cinema, it is still relatively little represented.”

The real gymnasts of the Swiss team

The majority of the actors are non-professionals, but the real gymnasts of the Swiss team. “It’s easier than with professionals in fact, because the gymnasts and the coach of the national team do things that the actors do not know how to do”, explains the director, trained at ECAL.

What interested him above all was the “real experience” of the performers. “The characters are fictitious, but on the other hand the gymnasts train 30 hours a week, perform in front of 5000 people in an arena and live at the Macolin Center, far from their parents: all of this is something they know . “

“I have the impression that my job as director of performers was to organize a space for them – and to define it very precisely: the stakes of the stage, the staging, etc. – for their then allow it to be completely filled. “

“And to use their own words, their emotions, their expressions, their reactions. And that gave the characters more interesting, more ambiguous, more contrasting colors than I had imagined, that I am able to write. “

First dizziness

Elie Grappe is already working on his second feature film project with the Geneva-based production company Point Prod: “It was good to get back to work very quickly, because the first dizziness is that of creation that comes. .. “

Olga“had its world premiere at Cannes this summer and won awards there like at several other festivals.

Benjamin Smadja with ATS

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