The hill where the lionesses roar as seen by Luana Bajrami

In its first feature, the revelation of Portrait of the young girl on fire stages 3 young Kosovars in search of freedom in the face of a suffocating patriarchy. Meet.

You signed your very first feature film at the age of 20. But has the desire to direct been with you for a long time?

Luana Bajrami: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to tell stories. First by playing. That’s why I tried my hand at theater at a very young age. Then, at 10, I landed a casting that I had spotted with my mother on the Internet and found myself acting in my first TV movie, Adele’s Choice by Olivier Guignard. And it was a shock to me. I had the feeling of living there the meeting of all the arts. In any case, I found my place there and I knew at that moment that it was what I wanted to do with my life. In front of and behind the camera. So I started to write screenplays and this desire only grew over the films that I was able to interpret and the directors that I had the chance to meet, rub shoulders with and observe over the years. closer, from Sébastien Marnier to Céline Sciamma via Denis Podalydès, Samir Guesmi… Filmmakers very different from each other. All of them have incredibly nurtured and encouraged me to get behind the camera myself.

The hill where the lionesses roar was one of those screenplays you wrote when you were younger?

No. The idea for this film was born when, when I had to go back to college, I found myself playing in Portrait of the girl on fire. At the end of the intense shooting of this film, I went to rest in Kosovo where I was born and which I left at the age of 7 with my parents. And when I came back to Paris, I locked myself in my room and started writing this story. Everything then went very quickly as if it was beyond me. In one week, I already had a first version whereas before I started, I didn’t know I was capable of writing a feature film.

Did you know from the start that this film would take place in Kosovo?

Yes, no doubt out of a desire to reconnect with this country, even though I have since returned there regularly for short stays. But I also wanted a story that transcends the borders of this country. This is why this idea very quickly came about of a group of explosive girls, accomplices and with a strong character, in which, whatever their nationality, you can project yourself. With this idea that the more personal one is, the more one can aspire to be universal. I had kept my child’s gaze on this village

On the basis of this Hill where lionesses roaris there also in you the desire for this eulogy of the sorority which unfolds there?

I have been asked a lot to explain things. But I prefer to trust the spectators so that everyone understands what they want to understand and that it can echo each personal story. My film does not belong to the category of those who need to impose a vision. And from my point of view, this film speaks just as much about youth as about the feminine cause. There are several levels of readings, I find


Was the funding easy to raise?

A Franco-Kosovar producer believed in me right away and set up a company in Kosovo to finance this film. And this simply on the idea. Before other partners join us

Where do you find your actresses? On the spot ?

Yes, even if in Kosovo, there is no artistic agency, no framework. So I conducted the casting myself. For one month. In particular by going to the faculties of actors. And I knew that I had found my actresses at the very moment when each one crossed the door and then by bringing them together. From there, we worked together for a month, working on the screenplay and creating a friendship between them who hadn’t known each other before filming. Because that, we cannot play it.

Did you plan to play in the film very early on?

Yes, but the character of this young Kosovar who has gone to live in Paris and who returns to spend her holidays there has continued to grow in importance. Because I gradually understood the challenge he embodied: the confrontation between two young people. She dreams of the lives of this trio of young Kosovars whom she finds magnificent in their freedom. And these three Kosovars dream of her own life, of her freedom to leave the country. This relationship between them cannot therefore be completely successful. And embodying it was a way to question my own legitimacy.

What led you to choose Hugo Paturel as director of photography and how did you work together?

It’s also Hugo’s first feature film and I was suspicious at first because I didn’t necessarily want us all to be beginners. But speaking with him, I immediately saw that we were on the same line. Between the two of us, it was a pure artistic encounter. He was able to take an objective and benevolent look at Kosovo and at the actors I had brought together. But also to understand that my references were much more literary than cinematographic. And, from there, he sought to adhere to my grammar, to translate it into images

What were these references?

Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck and in particular East of Eden. And Hugo spoke to me about Their children after them by Nicolas Mathieu who also talks about youth, the plot takes place in the Vosges and not in Kosovo. This book was our essential reference.

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