The director of French thriller 11.6, which has its International Premiere in Karlovy Vary’s International Competition, talks about crafting a feature film from real life events

Toni Musulin was an unassuming security van driver who did his job without complaint for ten years. One day, in 2009, he proceeded to disappear with his van containing Euros 11.6m. Dubbed by many in France as the ‘Crime of the Century’ it remains one of the country’s biggest heists committed without the aid of firearms.

11.6, Philippe Godeau’s mix of thriller and social realism about the fateful robbery, tries to unpick the truth about the man that many labelled a modern day Robin Hood. However Godeau refrained from meeting Musulin, currently serving time in a French jail, in person.

“I sent a letter to his lawyer but we couldn’t work it out,” explained Godeau at a press conference here in Karlovy Vary. “I’m actually quite happy not to have met him. I made a feature film, not a documentary. A friend of mine made a film about someone who killed someone and he met the main protagonist in real life and it really affected him and the film. I did meet (many of Musulin’s) colleagues in preparation.”

When asked about Musulin – who claimed that he committed the robbery because he had been mistreated at his job – and his motives, Godeau said: “I think it’s about lack of recognition in society. He worked hard, was never late but there was this lack of appreciation. Some people deal with it via suicide or depression. His way of dealing with it was by stealing 11 million dollars.”

Godeau also know that cinema can be tremendously powerful in the way it romanticises criminals. “It’s much easier to dream something than do something. Film makes it possible to experience something we might not have the courage to do. My father told me that in the French Resistance there were fraudsters. I like to think that if Musulin was in the resistance, he would have been on the right side. I tried not to portray him as a hero, but I have to salute him.”