French filmmaker Comar discusses his debut feature as a director, which opened the 2017 Berlin film festival.
After a successful producing career on the European arthouse circuit with credits including the Oscar-nominated Timbuktu and Bafta-nominated Of Gods And Men, Etienne Comar makes his directorial debut with Django, depicting two years in the life of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. The film opened the Berlinale last night (Feb 9).
Why did you want to tell Reinhardt’s story?
I’ve wanted to make a portrait of a musician for a long time; it’s a tormented, dramatic existence. Django inspired many of the great guitarists — Jimi Hendrix named an album in homage to him [Band Of Gypsys]. The name Django is very famous; the Sergio Corbucci film Django [and by extension Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained] are references.
Has it always been your ambition to direct?
Not always, but I’m now more interested in the artistic part of this job. I just needed a good project that fitted me in terms of ambition, narrative and emotional impact. Django was perfect.
Was it a challenging production?
I think it would be impossible for a young director to make this film — it was possible for me because of my experience as a producer. It’s a complicated historical piece and it doesn’t have a small budget; it’s not an easy first film. There were a lot of challenges.
How did you raise finance?
It was approximately an €8m [$8.5m] budget, backed by companies including Pathé and Canal Plus. It wasn’t complicated to get the money, but it was a delicate equation between the cost and the result.
What are the challenges in the European arthouse scene?
In France and wider Europe it has always been possible to make these kinds of films, but it’s becoming more difficult to release them, particularly if they don’t have a major festival label. There’s no space in the market, but I’m still confident because people want to see quality films where they are moved and maybe learn something. If you can mix those things in an arthouse movie, it’s very possible to be successful.
What’s your next project?
For the moment I will not produce any more films by other directors. Writing and producing my own projects is perfect for me, but I like to continue to be open-minded.