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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2015 - 17.26 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2015

Bébé Tigre is Many, a seventeen-year-old Indian boy from Punjab, who has been taking care of by the French Government when he arrived in Paris two years ago. On the way to an exemplary integration, he divides his time between school, friends, his girlfriend Élisabeth and the Sikh community. His life could be the one of a teenager like any other, if the pressures placed on him by his parents in India to send them money didn’t force him to put his own life at risk.

Original Title BÉBÉ TIGRE
Category Official Competition
Section Generator +16
Tipology Feature Film
Duration 87'
Production Year 2014
Nationality France
Directed by Cyprien Vial
Screenplay Cyprien Vial
Director of photography Pierre Cottereau
Editor Albertine Lastera
Production Design Sophie Reynaud
Costume Design Camille Assaf
Sound Mathieu Descamps, Jocelyn Robert, Gurwal Coïc-Gallas
Music Léonie Pernet
Main cast Harmandeep Palminder (Many)
Vikram Sharma (Kamal)
Élisabeth Lando (Elisabeth)
Bilal Baggad (Sami)
Billèl Brima (Daniel)
Amandeep Singh (Sony)
Produced by Isabelle Madelaine, Émilie Tisné

youngTiger reg OK

Cyprien Vial
Born 1979, Tulle (France). He graduated in Directing from the French state film school La Fémis (Fondation Européenne pour les Métiers de l’Image et du Son) in Paris. He directed four short films: IN THE ROW (DANS LE RANG, 2006), which won the SACD Short Film Award at the Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival 2006; L’APPLICATION DES PEINES (2007); MRS (MADAME, 2008); ET MOI? (2008). YOUNG TIGER is his first feature film.

Director’s statement
“From 2007 to 2010, I conducted film workshops with a French teacher at a junior high school in Pantin in what is called a ‘priority education zone’. Every year we made a film with the 8th graders. One year, the kids wanted to work on the subjects of social diversity, sharing and dialogue. They dreamed up playlets depicting escalating conflicts and I filmed them. At the same time, they wanted to show where they came from. One day they turned up wearing traditional dress from their native countries. I photographed them and made recordings of the students explaining what they liked about their culture. Our little film was thus a mixture of scenes of upheaval and portraits where they introduced themselves. Finally, a rather mysterious but charismatic boy from Bangladesh named Jacky, who was older than the others, was able to convince everybody to end the film with a Bollywood dance number! I got such a kick out of making this little film that it made me want to shoot a movie with teenagers.

“Among the students, there was one young girl, Élisabeth, who I really wanted to film more. She had expressed a wish to do some acting. It took several years, but finally she became Élisabeth in Young Tiger. Jacky, the young boy from Bangladesh triggered something else. I was very intrigued by the mystery surrounding him. He lived alone without any relatives in a foster family. I started asking questions about him – his teachers seemed a little embarrassed. After the workshops, I kept in contact with him and I started researching. Finally, I discovered his status: unaccompanied foreign minor. I had never heard of this status before. According to French law, a minor under the age of eighteen who arrives alone on our territory must be taken in hand and assisted by public authorities. He or she might be, because of their young age, in danger. Thus the State must help him or her even if they are illegal immigrants. I was struck by this law’s humanism, especially during an era when the debate on national identity was growing.

“Jacky was a very good student and strongly wanted to integrate. I then realized that all unaccompanied minors shared this profound desire to be integrated into society. The social workers at the Children’s Social Welfare office stressed the children’s fighting spirit. “Meeting someone with such a surprising otherness, so far from anything I personally knew from experience about adolescence, and the strength of these life stories made a deep impression on me. That point was the opening for fiction to step in, for I had the impression of being faced with true heroes.

“The unaccompanied minor status isn’t in of itself a subject for fiction. I continued to meet with judges, foster families and heads of associations. I spent some time with the Chinese community, without being able to successfully gain people’s confidence. Very quickly, I started lingering with kids from Punjab in Northern India, the land of the Sikhs, a warring people who proclaim their independence from the Federal Indian State. From the youngest age the boys are raised to be little warriors, proud and independent men who must not disappoint their family in any way.

“Then I met Many. I kept his first name in the film even if it is not his story I am telling. But the story of his life helped me to learn about the Punjabis who arrive in France. All of the children have been “commissioned” by their parents, who go into debt with smugglers from the mafia to obtain false passports; or they use real passports but pay off custom workers in Punjab so that the children can get on the plane. It is this precise situation of illegal immigrants that interested me, because I didn’t want to treat the trauma of the illegal immigrants’ journey by land, which is another subject altogether and has already often been addressed in cinema. These children are assisted by the State, go to school, learn French and are taken in charge by a judge, a social worker and a foster family. However, some of them remain in the grip of smugglers, who are often looked upon like big brothers. And the parental pressure remains omnipresent.

“This subject brings out themes that are very dear to me: the transition to adulthood, making your first grown-up decisions, one's relationship to authority and the authorities. For these children and the paths their lives have taken, all of these themes have been condensed and intensified. In fact, they are modern adventurers, at once alone and yet very much surrounded.

“During my research I realized that the men who handled receiving the children had an undefined role: they are outlaws, yet are considered by the teenagers and in certain cases even by the social workers as referents! They represent an emotional balance for this youth. Foster families are paid by the State to house and feed the unaccompanied minors; sometimes these families save this money for themselves behind the minors’ backs thus making money at the minors’ expense. Not to mention the real parents who find nothing wrong with asking their sons to provide for them: it’s rooted in their culture and that’s just how it is. I like cinema that reveals a number of ambivalent positions. I want to make movies that explore blurred areas and the ambivalence that can be found in individuals.

“I started to write the screenplay, interweaving the numerous accounts I had gathered to come up with one individual life story. Many is an emotional composite of all the information I collected. Above all, I wanted his personal trajectory to be a straight line from a sort of cruel initiatory journey leading to his transition into adulthood.

“I wanted to see my main character grow up and have to face tough choices. Go to the end of things with him, through situations that others had told me about: undeclared work, the relationship with the law. I chose to bring him to the point – under the pressure of the legal authorities, both judiciary and the police – where he has to make the decision that he least wants to make: that of betraying Kamal. The system cruelly and ironically pushes him to denounce the person to whom he owes having been assisted and having been given a chance of integrating into society.

“I wanted the movie to bring out State authority, Republican authority, in all of its ambivalence. Many only has one solution to save his skin – choose the Republic, which in this case, is a dishonourable decision to make. For me, the point is to ask questions. Far from a happy ending, this life-saving ending for my hero, albeit inglorious, highlights the State's incapacity to integrate without assimilating.

“I wanted to confront genre cinema on my own terms – have the adolescent saga, the energy of a school class meet with the codes of a thriller or film noir. I wanted my hero to have to make a choice, and a moral choice is a film noir code. In choosing to confront a thriller, I myself wanted to take on the unbending codes of that specific genre.

“My film has been documented, but it is in my language, which is fiction. It is important to me to respect reality without being a slave to it. I wanted to work around the tension of a thriller and have the purity of a simple romance. Élisabeth embodies reason, as is often the case of the hero’s companion in a thriller.

“When I met all these boys, these unaccompanied foreign minors, during my research, the image of the tiger quickly came to me: an instinctive animal that protects his own. The baby has teeth, claws, but he doesn’t know how to use them yet. This is the story the film tells: Many is a young tiger who has to try out his claws for the first time”.

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