A sensitive and poetical portrait of the life of Antoine, a five years old blind detective boy who swims, paints and drives a car. He is integrated into the regular school system in Montreal, with unprecedented success.
“Point of View” sat down with Laura Bari to find out more about the film.
While a documentary, “Antoine” is to a certain extent a fiction film; it’s the brainchild of Antoine’s imagination and dreams. What was the idea behind making this film?
When an object exists, it’s reality. When a person exists, it’s reality and I believe that when an idea exists, it’s also reality. Unlike documentaries, fiction films are invented. But inventions, at the end, are a recreation of reality because all the elements of an invention already exist so to invent or imagine something all we need is the ability to combine real elements to recreate reality.
In Antoine, we get into this little boy’s mind. The film is built on a dialogue between what he can see through his imagination and what we can.
In your film we see Antoine experimenting audio-visual arts like painting and music, playing detective and searching for clues along with other sighted children. These are activities that many blind Syrians don’t take part in. How important it is to integrate art to childhood in general and to that of the blind in particular?
Children are educated in a very rational way that destroys their creativity. When I met Antoine for the first time I asked him “what do you like the most”? He said “I would like to drive a car.” So I gave him the keys to my car. He was astonished! “What else?” I asked him. “I want a mobile.” So I gave him my mobile and told him detectives drive cars and answer mobile calls, so why don’t we play detective? “It’s impossible!” He thought. But he could make it! Through playing detective I wanted to break this boundary between reality and imagination to set him free.
I wanted him to learn to overcome his boundaries. Just like the African slaves who were taken to Brazil. Their legs were heavily chained which prevented them from dancing so they created salsa and merengue.
Creativity is an association between things you don’t associate. In the case of Antoine, he painted with colors that he couldn’t see. But still he could imagine them by associating the colors with things he knew. Orange and green, for example, are his favorites because he can taste them when eating oranges and lemons.
Although blind, Antoine was capable of engaging in all the activities other children did. He plays sport and he even took part in the schools run race by sticking to a cord. This helps him gain more confidence.
Antoine used to fear cat and dogs. But at the end of the movie he touched a horse for the first time in his life. And it’s because art that he gained this confidence.
Some people criticized the film for being too long and repetitive. What do you think?
I wanted the structure of the film to be similar to that of a 6 year-old child’s personality. I’ve been studying the structure of personality and the influence of art and immigration on it. At this age children can switch from reality to imagination in a minute. You scream so they imagine you as a monster. Next minute you tell them let’s go eat so you become their mother or aunt. In my film I wanted to celebrate children’s ability to switch between the two because once you grow older you can’t do it anymore as people would consider you schizophrenic. Furthermore, children keep repeating the same things so that’s why I repeated some scenes because I wanted the film to be coherent with the child’s rhythm.
“Antoine” is one of the rare documentaries were the characters take part in the editing process. Antoine collaborated to the soundtrack creation by capturing and choosing sounds making the film more than a simple portrait of him. What was the editing process like?
He worked with me all along. He was my sound man and my technician. He put the pieces of the camera and the microphone together. He could put the batteries faster than me. In some cases I even let him take decisions.
Antoine had a rare thirst to learn. We should give him and other kids like him the possibility to do so. We have to treat blind children like kids not like sick people. They are different but who isn’t? We are all different and it’s our job to find a way to integrate.
This article was published in “Point of View” DOX BOX 2010 documentary film festival’s bulletin.