Entrevue avec Debra Granik sur Stray Dog

Stray Dog dresse le portrait attachant de Ron, un motard vétéran du Vietnam, et de son étonnante histoire d’amour. Debra Granik a bien voulu nous en dire un peu plus sur son film et sur sa collaboration avec Ron.

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Can you tell us how you met Ron « Stray Dog » Hall and how came about the idea of making a film with him?

We met Ron in the making of our previous film, Winter’s Bone.  In a brief visit to say good-bye, we met up with him in his real-life home, meeting his friends and neighbors as well.  We saw his RV park filled with small dogs and motorcycles.  He told us a about the  upcoming cross country veteran biker ride to DC, as well as the issues that concerned him.

Filming a few days with him, as a sort of a test shoot, is what gave us the feeling that we could create something with him, learn more about him and his experiences.  There were a number of themes in his life that were rich, loaded, and unexpected to us. You can see someone in a setting and make assumptions about them, but it is not until they start to tell some anecdotes and explain some connections, that you start to see an interesting fabric. Ron is also a natural storyteller. We learned that some of his stories he uses as icebreakers, as a way to meet someone he doesn’t know—a kind of regional generosity which he extended to us.

Could you talk about the differences between making a documentary about a male biker and making Winter’s Bone, your previous film, which is a fiction with a strong female character (played by Jennifer Lawrence)?

Everything is different.  Narratives are tightly planned.  Both narratives and docs have lots of unexpected issues arise, change of plans, which then ends up creating twist and bends in what you actually end up shooting. With docs, the subjects can get sprawling.  Everyday brings a new set of characters and situations. With narrative, you don’t usually end up adding lots of scenes; with doc you do so as life throws you the situations.

There can be a big difference in the lines that get spoken in a doc and a narrative– from the dialogue, the asides, the possibility of a poetic internal monologue (voice over).  As Tory (the editor) and I look at the footage, I think Oh that I could write like that!  Ron and his friends deploy humor to keep life interesting—badass humor, good humor, Ozarks humor. Often we loved the lines that came out of his mouth and those of his friends, but we ourselves can’t write lines like that. There were things about him—his swagger, his friends’ swagger—that were really appealing and photogenic. They were colorful personalities and had unfamiliar habits: what they wore, how they cooked, being insightful, searching, and at other times intimidating. Who can script that spicy array?  There is a porous membrane between a documentary that doesn’t use interviews and what one might call a neorealist hybrid film. Many of us are searching for vocabulary to convey the intersection between doc and fiction.

Some differences are clear.  In doc making, many images and events that one can not predict leap in front of your lens. This onslaught of curious and poignant moments can make you wonder if there will ever be a way to put the pieces together into anything coherent.  And then, for as many moments that you “catch” or record, there are many that you miss. And  if you miss something, you can’t just do a re-take. And at those moments, I think if this was a narrative, I could try that again.  There were many incidents and stories that I didn’t “capture” that I had difficulty letting go of.  One that comes to mind was the day that Ron had performed mouth-to-mouth CPR on one of his little dogs. After the fact, we spoke to him, and he was very happy because the dog had survived. From a photographic perspective, seeing this big guy perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a small dog was something I knew I would find strong, if not a little surreal.  It really ate me up inside that we had missed it. We tried to have him show the cpr technique to his family, and it didn’t work. In some cases, you can direct in a doc; other times, you think you can, but can’t. Step one: accept fate, which can be hard to do.

Ron is in a way a “concentrate” of the United States’ history and sociological concerns. How did you work with him during the shooting, to treat his psychological complexity on screen?
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The complexity of Ron’s life and of the life of his community became apparent as we filmed him and his neighbors.  They are intensely patriotic, and also intensely critical of government.  They belong to the United States’ warrior class, and live by a quasi-military code of honor, yet Ron and some of his friends are aware that the motives of the men who send them to war are not always honorable.  Many of our prejudices about Middle America were overturned in the process of filming.  Instead of addressing these themes head-on, we chose to let them unfold through observation of daily life, so that that concentration, that complexity, could be there for the viewer to discover.

Stray Dog shows a part of the United States which has often been mythified or aestheticized in films. Why did you choose a more naturalistic approach?

The reality is much richer and more surprising than the myth and the stereotypes. By presenting real visual details of Americans living in poverty — the daily survival techniques, the dwellings, the needs, the customs and practices, you make it possible for the viewer to contrast they myths with the less familiar aspects of reality.

Your film is also a beautiful love story. Did you expect this part of the film, with the presence of Alicia and her family, to be so important when you started the project?

We had already been discussing the project with Ron for some time when he told us about his developing relationship with Alicia.  We realized that this would complicate and enlarge the story.  Of course we didn’t know at that point where it would lead.  Having their relationship as an additional theme changed the nature of the project, quite a bit.  It opened it up, made it more of a novel than an essay, so to speak.

 

Séances :

Jeudi 13 novembre, 17h30 – Cinéma du Parc 2

Samedi 22 novembre, 21h15 – Cinéma du Parc 3