Director CÉDRIC IDO wanted to reveal a less familiar side to Paris in his portrayal of a vibrant immigrant community, as he tells
The film-maker reveals why he wanted to show a less familiar side to Parisian life.
Whenever Cédric Ido strolls out of the Château d’eau métro station in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, he feels right at home. For an actor/ director who was born in the French capital and whose parents both hail from Burkina Faso, the neighbourhood known for its large African community is a welcoming place; here he gets his hair cut, hangs out with relatives, listens to dance music from Africa, and soaks up a uniquely vibrant atmosphere. It is an environment that, Ido believes, is fast disappearing because of gentrification.
“In about five years, the Château d’eau I know will probably be gone,” he says. “We have seen gentrification in other big cities and in other parts of Paris like Belleville and Château Rouge, and the same thing is happening in Château d’eau. Those who move in come looking for a certain vibrancy, but then change that very element of the neighbourhood. That transformation is inevitable.”
As the wave of gentrification started washing over his favourite Parisian hang-out, it occurred to Ido that he needed to document the way Château d’eau looked and sounded now, before it changed forever. Teaming up with friend and co-director Modi Barry
(who has a similar passion for the Parisian district), the film-maker poured his heart and soul into Chateau, his feature-length directorial debut that focuses on the lives of those working around the métro station.
Following the efforts of hustler Charles (played by Ido’s brother Jacky) to start his own business, the film takes audiences on a journey through little-seen parts of Paris, from salons where stylists are as colourful as the extensions and nails being glued on, to small clubs throbbing with music and dance.
“We wanted to show a different side to Paris,” explains Ido. “The city is not just about the fashion that we know and all the big brand names. There are neighbourhoods such as Château d’eau which are important; where dance music like coupé-décalé was invented and has gone all over the world. The people who live in these communities bring a lot to the city and I find that inspirational.”
With Ido and Barry working on a shoestring budget and to a tight schedule, the shoot forced everyone to think on their feet. The directors were not able to close any roads, so the production simply had to blend into the Château d’eau neighbourhood, much to the bemusement of the local community, many of whom feature in the film.
“We talked to the locals about shooting in the area and they were excited,” says Ido. “They welcomed us warmly and then, after a while, they just didn’t care because they had to get on with their own work. Having their approval to shoot in the area was great, though, because we wanted to show Château d’eau through the eyes of people who live there.”
A big part of the film’s success is the performance of Jacky Ido. With the siblings having collaborated before on the award-winning short film Twagga (2013), the Ido brothers are clearly a potent combination. “It’s a bit strange to work so closely with your sibling, who you know really well, but we get over that pretty quickly,” says the director. “I know exactly what I want from him. He makes it easy because sometimes we don’t even need to talk. I can get across to him what I want with a simple look.”
With immigration to Europe a hotbutton topic at the moment, some will see Chateau (entitled La Vie de Château in France) as a film that is trying to make a political statement. That, Ido insists, was not his intention when he started. “This film is not political in an activist way,” he says. “If anything it’s like a documentary. We are simply capturing a moment in time.”
The fact that Chateau was getting its UK premiere at the London Film Festival in October means a wide audience will be introduced to the Château d’eau district. It is the sort of promotion Ido hopes will result in visitors to Paris straying off the tourist trail.
“It would be fantastic if the film inspires people to check out Château d’eau, visit its clubs and enjoy something new in Paris,” the director says. “It’s one of the last neighbourhoods that not only has a big African community but also people from India, China and other parts of the world, all working together. It’s a fantastic mix of cultures that has to be experienced before it’s gone.”
The film takes audiences on a journey through little-seen parts of Paris, from hair salons to small clubs throbbing with music and dance
When directors film in Paris, they tend to seek out Montmartre, the Pont des Arts or another popular tourist spot. Not so Cédric Ido and Modi Barry. Thrillingly, the film-making duo have chosen the less salubrious, workingclass area around the Château d’eau métro station for Chateau, a story about hustlers, hairdos and career heartbreak.
In a bustling neighbourhood housing a large immigrant community, hair salons use groups of fast-talking young men to bring in business off the street. Leading one such a team is Charles (Ido, brother of the director), who plans to open his own shop in the area. Also dreaming big is Fatou (Rojo), whose bright idea for a new hairstyle could be the key to a better life. Unfortunately for both, Château d’eau is teeming with opportunists looking to make a quick buck once other people have done all the hard work.
Shot guerilla style (Ido and Barry were not able to close any streets), Chateau has a pace and energy that is instantly appealing. Feeding off the laissez-faire spirit of the production, cast members produce wonderfully natural performances, with Ido perfect as the quiet, moral centre of the film. If the actor is all ice, then Rojo is raging fire, showing in one scene that she can punch her way out of a predicament.
With many French films released in the UK showing the City of Light through rose-tinted glasses, Chateau is a refreshing dose of reality – a relevant, touching homage to a multi-cultural metropolis and its resilient residents.
ABOVE: Cast members in the Château d’eau district of Paris; BELOW: Actress Tatiana Rojo in a scene from Chateau; FACING PAGE: Director Cédric Ido on set
Chateau is being screened at the London Film Festival on 8, 10 and 13 October (whatson.bfi.org.uk). See Pierre’s review on page 92.