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One-on-one with filmmaker Sarah Seené - “[Analog] film is so sensorial, palpable, magic and it..."

Film is so sensorial, palpable, magic and it comes with a lot of surprises. It’s important to keep it alive in our digital world.

Sarah Seené is a French photographer and filmmaker based in Montréal (Quebec, Canada) who works with 35mm film, Super 8 and Polaroid. Born in the East of France in 1987, she obtained a Bachelor's degree in Lettres et Littératures Modernes at the Faculté de Sciences du langage de Besançon and a Master's degree in Recherches cinématographiques at the Faculté de Lettres et Langues de Poitiers. Her thesis was on the concept of idiocy in the Golden Heart Trilogy by filmmaker Lars Von Trier.


iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.

Seené: “My most important film is ''Lumen'' (meaning ''light'' in Latin) which is a short documentary shot on Black and White Super-8 that portrays a young girl with oculocutaneous albinism. Despite the hypersensitivity caused by this genetic disease, the depigmentation of her skin and eyes gives her an extraordinary aura.”


Sarah Seené Lumen film festivals
Lumen (2019)

iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?

Seené: “The main challenge during the shooting was the sun. Marlène, the young girl who is at the center of the film has got a hypersensitive skin. We shot during a very sunny day in August 2019. Even if Marlène had applied sunscreen on her skin, we had to run between different shadow places. Everyday, when she’s outside, Marlène wears sunglasses because the natural light is very aggressive for her eyes, her vision. For the film, I wanted to shoot her eyes but she had to keep them closed. This situation was stressful for me because I didn’t want Marlène to be uncomfortable.”


iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?

Seené: “I’m particularly proud to work with analog medias. I’ve started in analog at the age of 16 and I never stopped. Film is so sensorial, palpable, magic and it comes with a lot of surprises. It’s important to keep it alive in our digital world. Portrait is another important aspect of my practice. Portraying people with sensibility is the essence of my artistic work in photography and cinema.”



Trailer: Lumen (2019)



iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

Seené: “When I was 13-years-old, I saw the movie ‘’Dancer in the dark’’ by Lars von and I knew that I would like to be a visual artist, specifically a filmmaker. While in High School, I learned analog photography and hand-processing. Later, I’d finished a Masters in Film Studies at the University of Poitiers (France) (my thesis was about Lars von Trier !). I wanted to make my own artistic work so I decided to start taking pictures and videos as a self-taught artist.”


iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?

Seené: “I’m working on several different projects: a new short documentary film about a fabulous disabled Canadian dancer and performer and a new photography project about a young blind mother. I’m also starting an artist residency at Videographe, an artist-run center in Montreal, with the talented filmmaker Maxime Corbeil-Perron. This collaboration will lead to a new film project.”


iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?

Seené: “Festivals are very important because they offer a great exposure to short films, all around the world. Sometimes, it could be an opportunity to meet distributors, producers and inspiring filmmakers.”


iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?

Seené: “Try to find a distributor and attend as many festivals as you can.”


iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?

Seené: “I think the pandemic allowed us to discover the possibilities of online film festivals. It becomes quite handy when you cannot attend the event and want to see the films. But a film festival will always be the best context to show work, in order to see it on a big screen and meet fellow filmmakers, producers, distributors and, of course, the festival team!”


iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?

Seené: “I’m absolutely in love with the work of Marie Losier, a French filmmaker who has lived in New York for 20 years. I discovered her work 10 years ago in France with her film ‘’The ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye’’ and it was a personal favorite. She has a very unique world, full of sweet humor and poetry and her way to show the people she loves is unique.”


iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?

Seené: “A few months ago, I discovered the film ‘’Madame’’ by Stéphane Riethauser on the exquisite streaming platform Mubi. It’s a wonderful film that makes an amazing use of the filmmaker’s family audiovisual archive. It’s about the extraordinary relationship between him and his grandmother and also about gender identity versus patriarchy. This film is really personal, touching, sensible, human and poetic. It’s exactly the type of film I love.”


iFilmFestival: Thank you Sarah for answering our questions!

Interview by iFilmFestival on 30/06/2021.