A Conversation with Film Director François-Christophe Marzal

On the occasion of the « Mois de la Francophonie » (Month of the French language), the Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta is presenting the movie TAMBOUR BATTANT (engl. Roll the Drum!), a comedy that is a little about politics and music, but mostly about love, friendship, and immigration. In an exclusive interview, we had the chance to speak with film director François-Christophe Marzal about his movie.

Film Director François-Christophe Marzal

Why did you decide to become a film director?

It has always been a big desire of mine to be able to tell stories. Because of this urge inside of me, I felt the need to find a way that would allow me to do that. Photography was one of the possibilities I initially considered, but when I was in France I was given the opportunity to learn about a good cinema school in Geneva. Attending the Ecole Supérieure d’Art Visuel Genève finally enabled me to tell my stories. I really enjoy working in the cinema industry, not least because of the cultural variety that can be found within this field

What inspired you to produce the movie TAMBOUR BATTANT?

Producing a comedy that would make different generations laugh is what I had wanted to do for a long time. My goal was to find an equivalent pleasure to the one I had when I was a little kid watching the movies of Don Camillo. Inspired by this motif, I started to research and learn about the cultural traditions in the canton of Valais. One of the customs they cherish is the brass band competition, which typically has a political origin. Once, however, the rivalry started due to an argument between two families, which eventually divided the village into two groups — the “white” (silver instruments) and the “yellow” (golden instruments). The situation soon started to escalate; with people from one band, for example, only visiting the bar or bank managed by someone from the same band. They would never mix, to the point where one could not even get married to someone from the other band. This specific case is what inspired me to produce the movie.

Was there one scene that was particularly difficult to film?

The most difficult scene to film was undoubtedly the one where the two bands meet each other in the middle of one of the village’s streets. Managing this scene was not easy because there were over 30 people per band and we had to make sure everyone left their place at the right moment. Moreover, we used the real traditional clothes — which are meant to keep the band members warm since it can get really cold in Valais. On the day we filmed this scene, however, the temperature was around 40°C (104°F). It was a challenging yet satisfying day, and in the end everything worked out perfectly.

Scene from the movie TAMBOUR BATTANT

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the women’s suffrage in Switzerland — a theme that is also included in your film. What inspired you to touch upon this topic?

I decided to place the story during the same time as the women’s suffrage, as well as the vote to limit immigration that took place one month later, because it was a very interesting historical moment in Switzerland which inspired me. Moreover, it is still a very current topic even 50 years later. While the situation has evolved and is looking much better now, there are still many things that need to change. One example is the difference in compensation between a man and a woman for the same job.

What was the biggest challenge when it comes to the production of this movie and how long did it take?

The biggest challenge was to write a comedy. If you see a scene of someone running against a closed door, it makes you laugh. But if you write it down, it is not that funny. To put the comedy in writing was not only strange but also time consuming. The first time the idea for this movie came to mind was nine years before it was released — the maturation process was very long. However, the actual fabrication of the movie was faster and it took approximately four years. Another challenge was to develop a comedy for the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It is difficult because it is a very small region and thus the variety of movie genres is small.

Is there a bigger message you wanted to convey through this movie?

The bigger message I wanted to convey is the fact that anyone can evolve. This is particularly related to the main character who was very stubborn and not at all open to change. To everyone’s surprise, he eventually accepted the things he was so opposed to in the beginning. I firmly believe that if everyone puts in a little bit of effort, we can build a better community.

How do you classify TAMBOUR BATTANT compared to your other projects?

TAMBOUR BATTANT was the most memorable movie I have produced so far because I was not only working with a team I knew very well, but I could also feel a sort of shared “pleasure” — everyone was so joyful and had so much positive energy. To me, seeing people who smile all the time, from morning to evening — even when they are tired — is just magic. This is why it is one of the most memorable experiences to me.

Check out the virtual edition of the Atlanta Francophonie Festival 2021 and sign up for the movie screening.

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