Connect with us

Arts & Culture

Daddy issues in a volatile world

Published

on

With his latest film BPM a critical and commercial success, I caught up with filmmaker Robin Campillo to look back at his earlier film Eastern Boys, which has recently been re-released.

It’s an intense and seductive film, with authentic and unpredictable characters.

Set in Paris, Eastern Boys gives us the story of Daniel solicits Marek - one of the young Eastern European boys that hangs around the Gare du Nord. Daniel gives Marek his home address, but when the doorbell rings and it isn’t Marek standing there, Daniel realises he’s fallen into a trap.

What was your inspiration for Eastern Boys?

I went for dinner at the home of a friend of a friend. This guy had recently returned to Paris from Russia. He was about 55-years-old, living with his son. While we were there, the son left to go out to a party and said goodbye to his father. The dynamic between the two of them confused me a little, and my friend told me afterwards that the man and the boy had been lovers in Russia, but that now he had adopted him as his son.
I found this surprising and interesting. I wanted to try and understand how it was possible to go from a sexual relationship to a father and son relationship. I wanted to write a story that explored that.

At the same time, I also wanted to write about immigration, and how people from Eastern Europe were coming to France and being seen as threatening.

The relationship between Daniel and Marek is complicated one. How did you reconcile the evolution of their relationship?

The heart of every relationship is a bit unknown. After you’ve been with the same person for a period of time, your relationship changes, it evolves, it goes to another level. For example, some people in a relationship don’t have sex anymore. It’s not something that we ever really talk about.

The story in this film is an extreme example of the mutation of a relationship.

What was the casting process for Eastern Boys? Olivier Rabourdin was obviously already an established actor, but the rest of the cast seemed to be relatively unknown?

I spent nine months on casting the film. I really wanted to cast Russian guys, so I was looking at Russian films and searching for Russian actors. But, it was very difficult - particularly because I don’t know the language and can’t read their alphabet.

Eventually, I found Daniil Vorobyov. He’d been working in low-quality films, but he was such a great actor. At first I thought he might play the role of Marek, but he wasn’t quite young enough for that. During the casting process, he read for the role of the Boss and it was perfect - he brought so much to that character that we evolved the character and gave him more depth.

I eventually found Kirill Emelyanov for the role of Marek. He comes from a family of actors, he’s been acting since he was five. He was so clever and so authentic that it was as if he wasn’t acting.

Daniil and Kirill came to Paris six months before filming started, and it was great to be able to spend time with them and see how they really embodied these roles.

Eastern Boys explored some of the facets of the immigration and migration experience in France. The tensions of that experience have heightened since that time - would Eastern Boys be a different story if you told it today?

I wouldn’t change the story - the situation is the same, but getting worse.

French society is becoming more and more closed. We’re so afraid of everything, the risk of others. We pretend that people coming to this country don’t belong, but that’s not the reality. The law is being used as a weapon.

In the film there are two moments where the law is used as a dirty weapon. First, when Daniel’s home is invaded, the boss uses the threat of paedophilia to prevent Daniel from calling the police. And at the end of the film, Daniel uses the immigration rules to get the boss and his gang arrested as undocumented immigrants, so that he can save his lover.

We spend so much energy trying to protect ourselves and our country, but we don’t realise that immigration is becoming more and more important - we have to address that. I want to continue to explore the issue, and how our history is shaping what’s happening today.

Were you pleased with how Eastern Boys was received? Did the audience understand the story that you were telling?

Advertisement

I did a lot of Q&A sessions at screenings of the film. What people seemed to respond to was that it put the audience in a situation where the moral standpoints weren’t obvious. The subject of the film, the behaviour of the characters, the age of the teenagers - it’s complex.

The experience of migrants is also complex. Often we feel obliged to talk about migrants in a positive way, but sometimes the countries they’ve come from and the experiences that they’ve had, that does something to them. There’s almost a metamorphosis in these characters.

BPM has been incredibly well-received. Could you have made BPM without having the success of Eastern Boys behind you?

Eastern Boys was a subject that was very important to me, but I was so afraid of everything - the character of Daniel was a bit like me.

What that film taught me was to not be afraid of anything, to jump into the unknown.

Working with my cinematographer - Jeanne Lapoirie, who I also worked with on BPM - we learnt how to work quickly, to get a scene set up and to start shooting, to capture the energy of those early moments and not worry too much about all of the detail.

It’s made me more free as a director, to let the film breathe.

Eastern Boys is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures

 

Read more from Gareth Johnson

We want to hear your opinion

Advertisement

Arts & Culture

Giving a voice to gay Arab men

Published

on

Samer Bo (image supplied)
Samer Bo (image supplied)

I caught up with author Samer Bo to talk about writing erotic gay fiction in Egypt.

What led you to start writing erotic gay fiction?

I was forgetting what was happening. I noticed that when someone asked me about what happened to me the previous week, I couldn’t remember the details.

I think forgetting was my defence-mechanism for all the pain and trouble.

So, I started by writing my diaries, which ended to be quite erotic sometimes. Then that moved to erotic fiction.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your stories?

Inspiration comes from my personal experiences and sometimes my friends’ experiences. Other times, I just meet a guy or watch a movie, and it inspires me to write a story.

Who are your target audience?

I write for myself before anyone else. I’d love all gay men to read and get aroused by my stories.

But I guess I do write for minorities — people who don’t usually get represented in media, porn, or erotic stories. I want people to see themselves represented in my novels.

What sort of feedback do you get from your readers?

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in the Middle East who finally find a voice speaking to them. Some see me as a role model — a type of Egyptian guy that they never see in the media.

Do your friends and family know that you write erotic gay fiction?

Only some close friends know. I’m not in touch with my family anyway. Samer is my real name, but I changed my last name to Bo.

Have you had any negative reactions to the gay erotic fiction that you write?

I only tell people about my writing if I know that they’re either gay or gay friendly. So I haven’t had negative reactions in that respect.

However, I have had multiple incidents of homophobia. I was arrested once.

Son of the President isn’t an erotic story, how did that story come to you?

That story is based on the real-life story of an older friend that I met a few years ago. I told him about my erotic stories, and he asked me to write an erotic story inspired by his experiences.

However, I felt that if I wrote it as erotica, it would take away from the essence of the story. So I left it as non-erotic story.

Advertisement

What do you hope that people feel when reading your stories?

First of all, aroused from my erotic stories. Plus, I want people to feel represented.

Gay Arabs are not represented in any kind of media. We’re being suppressed and discriminated against. A lot of gay men in the Middle East feel that being gay is wrong, and that homosexuality is a sin.

This is my small way to help those men feel better about themselves.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for the remainder of 2018?

More stories, maybe some non-erotic ones. I’m also helping a friend of mine to change his non-erotic short story into a play.

Read the novels by Samer Bo

Follow Samer Bo on Twitter

Read more from Gareth Johnson

Continue Reading

Trending