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Most filmmakers are concerned with having audiences understand and appreciate their work.
For French-Canadian writer/director Philippe Falardeau, the real challenge was explaining the plot behind his new film Congorama to prospective producers and distributors.
“I had trouble pitching the story to producers in Europe because I got tangled up in my own script,” Falardeau says.
“Normally a good story is apparently simple. If I say it’s about a guy who finds out he was adopted and was born clandestinely in a barn, it doesn’t show the playfulness of the movie, the structure, the electric car, the twist of fate, the symbolism of the world fairs in Congo and Montreal.”
Congorama’s plot can be summarized, but not without adding a caveat that the only way to truly grasp the narrative structure is to see the film itself.
The dramatic comedy follows a Belgian man named Michel Roy (Les Brigades du Tigre’s Olivier Gourmet) as he comes to Quebec to search for his roots and meets Louis Legros (La Vie Avec Mon Pere’s Paul Ahmarani). The two get into a car accident that will forever change their lives and the future of the automobile industry.
Falardeau tells the story from the points of view of different characters in the film, making for a complex narrative, but one which garnered Congorama rave reviews at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and similarly favourable attention at TIFF.
“By having the spectator working all the time trying to put the pieces together, they’re not saying this (plot twist) isn’t possible, they’re engaged in the story and that’s why I chose to tell the story in that manner,” Falardeau explains. “But most of all because it’s a nice way to follow characters and revisit the same events from a different point of view.”
According to Falardeau, one of his real interests in bringing Congorama to life on screen was to delve into the role of father figures and the effect they have on the boys around them.
“When we’re growing up as kids, our father is the best in the world. Then you grow up and realize your father is not flawless. Then arriving at 30- or 40-years-old, you have to find new ways to be proud of your father. These two men (in the film) are looking for that in a way.”