Waking from a dream

Annick Blanc on chaos, hidden strength and Hunting Daze

by Paul Risker

Hunting Daze
Hunting Daze

In producer and director Annick Blanc’s début feature, Hunting Daze, headstrong exotic dancer Nina (Nahéma Ricci) finds herself stranded. She’s able to convince a recent customer to give her a place to stay and joins the group of men on their bachelor hunting trip. While her situation has a precarious energy, it’s not until a stranger arrives that things begin to take a truly dark turn.

Speaking with Eye For Film, Blanc discussed creating an experience for the audience that mimics life, the uniqueness of the female gaze and her fear for the TikTok generation.

Paul Risker: What was the motivation to make this film and to tell this particular story now?

Annick Blanc: I wanted to point the finger at the way we’re living as a society right now. We live our lives partying and enjoying whatever we can, while the world is crumbling around us. We’re always thinking that we can do anything, that the government should fix things, or I don't have time right now to fix it. I wanted to point the finger at this and to do it in a thriller where in a cathartic way, you see where this attitude can lead us.

PR: There’s the expression about the calm before the storm, but Hunting Daze begins with chaos, and it escalates.

AB: It was a way to challenge the audience and to replicate what happens in life. Everything moves so fast; we don't have time to think. We just react and that's what I wanted to have [the audience] experience. You think the film is going to go in one direction and you prepare yourself, but then it goes in this other direction. The audience feel at some point like they're losing the ability to think, and at some point, it’s so overwhelming, they simply follow along. This is the experience of the characters, and I wanted to mimic that so you can share their experience. Rather than showing you what is happening, you live it.

When I first wrote the opening scene, the movie began calmer and now it starts with this big fight. Usually that's something that happens later, but in life there’s rarely an introduction – it just happens. That's what I tried to capture in the writing.

PR: The film opens on her standing with her eyes closed. This isn't a character dreaming, but it leans into the relationship cinema shares with dreams and nightmares.

AB: Dreams are important for me because we watch movies to dream. I love dreaming and sometimes I write while I dream. It's very specific, but I could be stuck on a scene and go for a nap and that can be when the idea comes to me.

The movie starts with her eyes closed, and as the movie goes on there's this repetition where the characters fall asleep and wake up. It's hypnotic and I'm into hypnotherapy. It’s the state where you don't control your thoughts but they're clearer.

It was important that it starts with her opening her eyes and ends with her closing her eyes. But the film is about being awake; it’s about waking up and changing things. So, it was important to show the audience that we're often sleeping because we're snoozing through our lives and responsibilities right now. We’ll take care of global warming, economical and political challenges later, but for now, let's just order dinner.

PR: You don’t present the female protagonist as frail, she’s strong, resilient and independent, yet she has a vulnerability.

AB: It's not because she's in a place of vulnerability. As a woman, I’m not as physically strong as the men I know. I will never be, but I can be strong as a person, and I don't have to be afraid. I wanted to show this dichotomy, where the guys tell her in the beginning that she’s going to act and talk like a man. “We're not scared, we're here to face death.” In the end, they're the ones that are most scared of death. They're the cowards because they have a lot to lose. They live in comfort, they have this strong appearance, but they never have to use it or fight. The other two characters that are vulnerable, they have to defend themselves all the time and they're not afraid to fight.

It was important to show that behind toxic masculinity there’s often fear. We need to break it, so we can talk about and face the real problems that make someone act in a way in which they use other people to their advantage, because they have the power to do so. That's not what you're supposed to do as a human being.

PR: How influential was the female gaze on this film?

AB: I'm also a producer, but I do feel that women tend to question themselves more [than men]. I don't know if it's because of our biology or because from when we're young, we're told to watch what we say. […] I like that sensitivity because there's a big grey area in my movie. As a woman, I'm keen to look at and feel that grey space, and to be affected by it.

[…] Sometimes you ask men why, and they say, “because that's it.” Whereas you ask a woman why and she'll sense the importance of asking herself why, because sometimes she doesn't feel she can say it’s what she wants.

This is what makes Hunting Daze so unique. There's a little bit of everything: humour, darkness, tenderness, dream, horror and thriller. It's because as a woman I live all of those and sometimes all at the same time, and I question myself.

PR: Hunting Daze pitches itself as a fun film but draws its audience into heavier themes, which genre cinema has built a tradition of doing.

AB: I learned in school that [a long time ago] when they showed movies, they put a comedy before a drama to open up the audience’s heart. Hunting Daze kind of does this. It makes you laugh and then cry, and then it makes you laugh again. It scares you and then it makes you laugh.

It allows you to speak about heavy subjects but like a fable it's bearable because it doesn't seem quite true, but in the end it is. So, it makes you believe it's a dreamworld and you can just enjoy the ride for now. I do hope the theme of the film is like a seed you plant that grows afterwards, and you realise it's about real life.

PR: It’s through conversation that a film grows and finds its identity.

AB: We can't stop talking, and I don't think we have time to waste anymore. We should talk and think, and sometimes my fear is the younger generation are just going to watch TikTok and will only be able to bear 1-minute videos of fun information before they need to switch to the next one. It doesn't allow you to think, and it doesn't tell you anything.

Movies and books have this ability to allow you to experience an enjoyable moment and learn about the human experience. It's important to continue to make films and art like that. The way I'm doing it is to make it entertaining for younger folks or people that need this level of entertainment to engage in a dialogue.

Hunting Daze World Premiered in the Midnighter section of SXSW.

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