It seems that in our increasingly polarised world the news brings with it a daily stream of incidents of racial violence, where divisions between communities are deepened, with distrust, fear and hate the only common currency traded back and forth. When a young, pugnacious skinhead enters a Muslim grocery store in Marc Fouchard’s Oscar shortlisted film The Way of Tea (Les Frémissements Du Thé), what seems predetermined to end in violence takes an unexpected turn. Ahead of today’s announcement of the final five short film nominees selected to compete in the 89th Oscars next month, DN sat down with Marc to discuss this perennially timely panacea of a short.
Where did this story about crossing divides come from? In 2013 you successfully crowdfunded for another film also starring Hassam Ghancy called Malik, are the two projects related?
The story is based on a real fact that took place in England and which moved and inspired me. But the story needed to be adapted to fit the French context and the shooting constraints: a small budget and little time available. The idea was to tell the story of just two people interacting in one single place… how much simpler can one do? Regarding Malik, it was a project we were working on with the production and with Hassam. But it was difficult to produce. So we decided to change Malik’s story into The Way Of Tea.
The fact that Malik has the physical means to fight but chooses not to adds to the power of his disarming request. How difficult was it to find a convincing means in which Malik’s invitation would be accepted?
Actually, Malik loses his temper in front of the young man. Instinctively, Malik is ready for a fight. But he identifies himself with the young man. He sees himself when he was young: explosive, bold, rowdy, a bit lost… But he’s wiser now. He knows that nothing good comes out of violence. That violence isn’t the solution, not to real problems. From my point of view, the young man is just a lost soul. Not really mean. He’s part of a movement he does not quite understand, but which he embraces as a ‘family’. He’s young, destitute and confused and when the film starts, he is plain hungry. Malik’s proposition is too attractive to refuse.
The idea was to tell the story of just two people interacting in one single place… how much simpler can one do?
By its very nature the shop location is a restrictive one. How did you approach shooting within such tight confines in a way which would remain visually interesting?
As I said, we had budget and time constraints. And this type of small corner-street grocery shop, you can find pretty much everywhere in France. The one we used for the shooting was pretty big compared to most you can find. As for the equipment, I had the possibility to shoot with good material, in good conditions and especially with a team that gave the best of themselves under the circumstances. But it’s true that the biggest technical challenge of this film was to find in a very small space, different composition of framework and movement of camera. I didn’t want to always have the same type of shoot. So I prepared the film a lot with my director of photography, I made a storyboard of each shot in the grocery store.
You’ve screened the film at several festivals across the globe now, are there recurring themes which come up during the Q&As?
Pretty much the ones you have asked! “Where does the idea come from? How long did it take to shoot it? What was your budget? How did you meet Hassam….?” Many questions had to do with the timely aspect of the film…Unfortunately it’s been 3 years that people tell me that my film is timely.
Congratulations on The Way of Tea making it to the coveted Oscar shortlist. Was that achieved through a particular strategy during your festival rollout?
We tried to submit the film to a great number of festivals, especially targeting the ones that were Oscars qualifying…And we had the chance to win the Grand Prix in Indianapolis, which opened our way to the Oscars.
What will we see from you next?
I hope my first long movie, very soon…