In an exclusive interview on the Croisette, New Europe caught up with Arnaud Valois, the protagonist of the 70th Cannes Festival winning movie BPM (Beats per Minute) by Robin Campillo.
At Cannes, the film received positive international reviews and four awards, including the Grand Prix. The jury included Spanish Director Pedro Almodóvar as president, as well as the German director, Maren Ade, American actress Jessica Chastain, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, French actress Agnès Jaoui, South Korean director Park Chan-wook, American megastar Will Smith, Italian Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino and French composer Gabriel Yared.
In a constant rise of socio-political stories in films presented at A-list film festivals, we see that, if Robin Campillo put at the centre the fight against Aids carried out by a group of creative young citizens, Ruben Ostlund, who won this year’s Golden Palm, presents an installation inviting visitors to altruism, while Kornel Mundruczo tells about a young immigrant in the middle of the refugee crisis and finally Fatih Akim with “In The Fade” shows us a woman who has lost her family in a neo-Nazi terrorist attack.
Let’s rewind to the early 1990s. With Aids having already claimed countless lives for nearly a decade, Act Up-Paris activists multiply actions to fight general indifference. Nathan, a newcomer to the group, has his world shaken up by Sean, a radical militant. Inspired by the American version of Act Up that was established in 1989, the French version follows many of the same rules: Participants gather to share their ideas about the best way to protest pharmaceutical companies’ unwillingness to share their research on potential Aids drugs, and plot strategies for gaining the attention of media and politicians.
After social engagement, love is also a strong element in the film?
Yes, there is a love story between me and one leader of the group who is HIV positive and gives his last fight against the disease.
Can you tell us about the atmosphere on set?
It was quite free on set and the director (Campillo) left a lot of space for our contribution and proposals. After that, he was pulling us back into line, according to his personal experience which he lived. Campillo and the producer were part of Act Up so activists visited us on set. Meeting with them was overwhelming and very interesting and the shooting was very intense and moving for everybody. During the shooting, I just let myself fill slowly by the scenes according to what was going on on set – even if the last part of the film was very hard and more complicated.
We know you like challenging roles like this one, but would you like to try a comedy in the future?
Why not? In general, it is more difficult to make people laugh because it is a question of rhythm. Only few can be so talented to do it. I think people are more gifted to make others laugh.
Do you think our governments can do more to fight Aids and how do you see the situation in France?
I hope politics would be able to do something about this issue because this “social” fight is respectful like others nowadays. We have a lot of foreigners coming to the Pompidou hospital in Paris which is a public health facility. Therefore, I would like to stress the fantastic work done by healthcare professionals. The priority to fight the disease also requires a mindset change. It might seem obvious, but protection is always the first element. Testing to detect eventually the disease is also important because lots of people are still not aware about their illness and can easily spread it.