Movies

‘First Goodbyes’ Director Mathilde Profit on Touring the World From Home With Her Directorial Debut

MyFrenchFilmFestival, organized by UniFrance, kicks off Friday, and among the shorts that have made their way through the festival circuit and to the online event is Mathilde Profit’s father-daughter road trip tale “First Goodbyes.”

Her first solo directing venture, Profit also handled screenwriting duties on the short, joined by co-writer Maxime Berthemy. The two combined their efforts to deliver the tale of a first and final voyage shared by a father and daughter, as the young woman heads off to university in Paris.

“First Goodbyes” is an entirely French production, executive produced by Jeanne Ezvan and Marthe Lamy at Apaches Films. Over the course of its festival run, it was honored by the Festival du Film Court en Plein Air de Grenoble and the Prix Jean Vigo.

Profit spoke with Variety ahead of the film’s participation at MyFrenchFilmFestival, where it will be available to stream worldwide.

This film has had an exceptional festival run, which I imagine you, like most this year, only got to enjoy virtually. Despite the circumstances, it must have been quite a year to see your film screening in places like Japan, Czech Republic and Spain. How did you find the experience of exhibiting your own film?

What a paradoxical year for me and for cinema! Yes, my film has been much-seen and appreciated despite so all of the festivals going virtual, and it is a great pleasure to know that it has reached audiences beyond the screening room. I was told that the film was very “French” and could not go beyond our borders, so I am all the more touched that it is appreciated abroad, especially in Japan. Ozu’s cinema was very present in my mind throughout the making of the film.

Can you talk about challenges you faced in fitting a complete road film into 23 minutes? You covered a lot of ground, both narratively and geographically.

I try to describe an important aspect of existence, while refusing to over-dramatize the event. I’m literally filming Leah’s move, her move from the province to the big city, and the last look she exchanges with her father before she begins her adult life. If the film is about describing intimate and singular relationships, I wanted to give scope to her move. The relationship to the territory was therefore essential: I wanted to really establish the rural countryside in very few shots.

You partnered with Maxime Berthemy on the screenplay, can you talk a bit about the writing process, and what it was like working together?

Maxime was there from the very beginning of the project. It is with him, by exchanging personal memories, that we have brought forth the characters and situations they go through. I remember that the distant and non-confrontational relationship between the father and daughter was there from the beginning. We tried to work with that idea, and ended up discovering that apparently not much happens when we present this major event in the lives of our characters.

Are there autobiographical aspects of this story? It feels quite raw, like it borrows heavily from lived experiences.

Yes and no. None of the specific moments happened exactly the same in the film as in my real life. Yet I can say that the film captures as faithfully as possible what my memories have left me.

What’s next for you? Are you working on anything right now?

I am currently preparing a medium-length film, “Losing Lena,” produced by Marthe Lamy and Jeanne Ezvan at Apaches Films. We very much hope to shoot next summer.

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