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April 6, 2014 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Interview with Yves Yersin

Listening to Yves Yersin: the acclaimed Swiss director of Blackboard (Tableau noir), recently shown in the French Film Festival touring the country. When we met, I was told I talk too “Kiwi” and to speak more American; here is what followed:

Have you ever been to New Zealand before?
No, arrived yesterday evening and am afraid about it, there is safety everywhere. I don’t identify with it.

Do you prefer to make documentaries or feature films?
I don’t see any difference between a documentary and a fiction film. Both tell stories. Except in the first case it is from a life that exists, in fiction from a life you invent.

Was there a journey that led you to creating Blackboard?
To tell a story you need conflict, and in this school there was no conflict; it was an idle school and we could only agree with everything going on there, hoping a crisis would appear. One did. Somebody started to invent things about the teacher and spread rumours, which was a little thing in the beginning but became bigger and bigger, so the story that I wanted to tell was completely buried. I never thought this would happen.

Was it intended to be about the educational process in the school?
I realised I didn’t know what was happening with my own son at school, and that parents do not know what their children are doing other than little facts. This was the original story. When you put your child into school you are leaving them to live a totally different life and if you try to approach it as a parent you can destroy it.

Achieving a balance between independence and balance?
Yes, independence… If you talk with the teachers, they will all tell you that the worst enemies are the parents. School is a public service, but the problem is the parents are paying to put the children in the school, and feel they know how to manage their children better. But this is a big problem because this is not their job and they should let go.

It was a very small community that you filmed?
The school was on a mountain 1400 metres high. They asked this teacher to come because he knew how to ski. He was more than just a teacher. He played the organ in the church on Sunday even though he was an atheist, for the people who believed.

What was the most rewarding part of directing this film?
First, we haven’t talked about the movie. The clothing of the story is in the fabric of the film. It was very difficult to make a film about this school without speaking about it closing, because the people who were against the professor and his methods didn’t want to work with me,  which made it impossible.

That must be so frustrating…
No, if you see the film, the result is in it; however, the cause is not and we explained the cause. You only have to watch it now. The movie is actually about transmitting knowledge not only from the teacher to the child but between one child to another and from the child to himself.


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