Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Teens participating in illicit behavior is nothing new. It’s been happening for decades. However, what is noteworthy is the role social media plays in how they view the world, their bodies and sexuality. Based on a true life tale, writer-director Eva Husson’s BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY)Eva Husson’s BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY) captures a provocative portrait of adolescence run wild. Singular, striking and superb, it’s guaranteed to strike a chord with audiences everywhere.
FreshFiction.tv: I know this based on a true story. What was it about that tale that made you think it could make a great film?
It’s funny. I just heard a quote from Guillermo Del Toro that said, ‘If you don’t have a boner, you can’t fuck.’ [laughs] It’s pretty much that. You just find something and suddenly it excites you for whatever mysterious reasons. [laughs] Sorry. I had to borrow that quote. [laughs]
FreshFiction.tv: It fits perfectly.
It’s just one of those things where you come across life stories and you think what the fuck happened? It makes you question everything and want to go deep – no pun intended. It makes you want to explore things.
FreshFiction.tv: Many of your cast are first time actors and do an incredible job. Was having an acting background yourself a strength to be able to communicate what you needed to get out of them?
It definitely gives you an idea of how fragile you can feel. It’s really impossible to understand unless you’ve acted yourself. Sometimes if the situation can be strange, it helps you to put things into perspective. You just need to find that key to that specific door that just closed. And the relationship to the body as well. It’s your job to smooth out that process.
FreshFiction.tv: Playing off of that, how did you prepare the cast to feel comfortable naked emotionally and physically?
First of all, I made sure to cast people who were stable enough so that it would be okay from them to go through this rollercoaster – specifically for the role of George. For example, I had an amazing actress who auditioned for the role and she was perfect in many ways, but she was a little bit young. I realized she was a still a virgin – stuff like that. Who am I to impose new experiences on her? It’s not my role. I want someone who has already been through experiences on her own and work from that. Not be the captain of that ship – that’s not what should happen.
FreshFiction.tv: The music in this is great. What kind of direction did you give White Sea?
I’ve known her since I was 17. She started as an actress as well and I kept her in one of my short films. She evolved into a composer so trust was a big part of the process. We have a common background of music taste. She’s very strong classically, in terms of modern music. I told her I would like us to do something that’s halfway between electronic music and classical music with very classical instruments like french horn, for example. And to have this electronic sensibility to it. That was our main direction.
FreshFiction.tv: The role social media plays in this film is integral. Do you ever worry about how it would impact the timelessness?
No. It’s part of life as it is now and would have been strange not to have address it at all. I did try to make it as minimal as possible. It’s a reflection of the world as it is today. Let’s not get mistaken: every movie in the world will be outdated at some point so let’s own it.
FreshFiction.tv: Female directors – or the lack thereof – is a hot topic here. What I love about covering ColCoa is there’s a wealth of female filmmakers to discover. I’m wondering if there’s more opportunities there to prove your worth?
There are 7% female directors in the States and 25% in France so statistically we are more, but it’s not like in real life. Our path is more difficult in a way. It took me awhile to find the right producer because there is this tendency… Men tend to prefer projects that talk about the world they perceive it. It’s not a negative bias – it’s just a very pragmatic one. The more men decide what’s being done financially, in terms of greenlights, the more projects there are directed by men. I don’t know if in France, there are more women producers or women in the decision making process – that might be the case. It’s slightly easier, but it’s not like a perfect world.
FreshFiction.tv: Back to this film, I could see influences of stuff from KIDS and a little bit of BREAKING THE WAVES. Maybe that’s just my interpretation.
I love Lars Von Trier – I’m very influenced by him. Whenever I was going in a direction that wanted to follow his steps, it’s not his filmmaking, but I wanted to go the other way. If you watch KIDS again today, you’ll realize that the movie is extremely bleak. The representation of women in KIDS is strangely more passive – that’s just the way it is. I’m trying to empower girls in BANG GANG. It’s a slight difference, but it’s huge in terms of representation of women on screen.
FreshFiction.tv: To be frank, teens these days terrify me. The risky things they come up with are mind-blowing to me.
Remember what happened in the 60’s and the 70’s and 80’s and the 90’s. And we’re all fine.
FreshFiction.tv: Do you think this is going to shock audiences?
At this stage in the life of the film, I’m pretty sure the audience who are into the film won’t be shocked. Just because it’s sort of a niche thing and people are aware of the movies they are going to see. It’s not like I’m selling HUNGER GAMES and all of a sudden you have BANG GANG on the screen. That’s a different story. The people who are interested in that kind of storytelling that have this mind-openness about the body and sexuality that makes them be present.
BANG GANG is now playing in limited release (at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, CA and the Village East in NYC).