Alexandra Lam goes behind the camera for the first time in “Touchées”, a poignant fiction about violence against women, offered this Thursday evening on TF1. Alocine met the actor to ask some questions.
Allociné: Touchées is your first product. How did you get into the project? Was it TF1 that approached you?
Alexandra Lam : Philippe Boefard, the director of Nord-Ouest, with whom I had previously worked on a film, opened a television department and contacted me and offered me a project. He explained that he had a comic called Touchées written by Quentin Zoution and that he wanted to read it because he wanted to create a project.
At first I thought he was going to offer me one of the three female roles, but he told me very quickly that he really wanted me to be the director. So I read the comic and immediately reconnected. With my various commitments, I thought it was a great piece of fiction for a first-time director.
It was a topic that concerns me, so I agreed. And from that moment I put my fear aside and risked being the director of Touchées. I had no choice.
And what was this first experience as a director?
It was extraordinary. I loved him. I had a heavy responsibility, but I knew the subject very well thanks to all my involvement. At least I had time to prepare the project. Thus, I worked with the Women’s Maison as well as the association Résonnante.
I also listened to podcasts and talked to victims of abuse around me. I didn’t just direct Touchées, because I also co-wrote with Solenn Roy – Péguenot and Quentin Zoution.
Melanie Dutt is one of your friends. Chloe Juane is your daughter. How was the casting?
I think Spielberg said that a good director is someone who knows how to surround himself well. I decided to follow this idea. For my cast, I told myself I had to cast the right people.
For Melanie Doughty, in addition to being a friend, I knew she was a professional and that the topics covered in Touchées spoke to her. It was very difficult to play what he plays. He managed to instill fear in his body, it just didn’t work. He was not afraid to go far and mark himself. I think he was the right actor for this role.
As for Claudia Tagbo, I really wanted to work with her. I had seen it in a TV movie and thought it was wonderful. She is also the first actress to portray Nicole. And luckily, she trusted me, because if I had refused, I wouldn’t have had another actress in mind. I thought he fit the role so well.
For Chloe Juanette, I think she’s a great actress who, like her character, has this strength and this violence, but also has a certain weakness. It can be explosive because it can be completely closed. She is raw and I thought she would be perfect for the role. And that was it. I think the trio works very well.
I also decided to call Andrea Besconde, because we often find ourselves in reasons, commitments and demonstrations. In my opinion, only he was there to camp the therapist. He also knew how to find the right words and did not hesitate to correct me on small things.
For example, he explained to me that we don’t say “He was killed“but”He killed her“, so as not to blame the woman again. Finally, Olivier Servar, who plays the fencing master, is actually an actual association fencing master who actually exists. It’s really his job.
When you watch Touchées, you almost want to know more about the lives of the secondary characters and what led them to this association. Was the TV movie ever considered to be a TV series?
It has always been a 90-minute format. There are no other characters in the comics, they are just in the background. And exactly, I didn’t want that. So I did the casting for all these women. We have created a story for each of them.
It was great because we had 10 days to shoot, and just doing silhouettes with swords behind it wouldn’t have been very interesting. Also, I had a lot of people asking me to do a series because they wanted to know what happened to these other women.
As an actor, I know that each character is important. Extras can completely ruin a scene. So I let the castings go even for one sentence.
Why did Quentin Zoution, a comic book writer, choose fencing as a form of therapy over another combat sport?
Quentin Zoution and Olivier, the master fencer, explained to me that in fencing you wear a mask so that you can project the image you want on the other person. You learn self control, touch and touch, proper distance, preparation for the game and knowing what you want to do.
As Olivier says at one point in the film: “You can be whoever you want under the mask“It allows us to be more free to not see it and put it on someone else. In fencing we can also strike anything we want and the violence we want without hurting anyone else. We are protected.
Through fencing, these women are able to release what is called murderous energy, which is the violence they have retained while being abused themselves. Moreover, when you think about it, attackers are often attacked. Those who experience violence often experience violence. Therefore, fencing is a good way to escape this violence and finally find peace.
Claudia Tagbo brings a touch of humor to the series. Was it written by his character or was it improvised on his part?
No, that’s how it was written. But I thought it was important to have a character like Nicole. I wanted it to be a laugh, because that’s life. Victims do not spend time crying, on the contrary. That is why we are always surprised when we learn that someone has been abused. In life we laugh and we cry.
There aren’t many violent scenes in Touched, but there are still a few that are awesome. How did the filming go?
I tried to feel the violence more than what was on the screen, because that’s what I was interested in. We have already seen and heard the repeated violence of a man beating his wife. What I was interested in was the feeling of violence.
Melanie Doughty knows how to do this all too well. But at least at some point you had to show a little violence. Ironically enough, Frank Liberty, who plays Lucy’s ex-husband, is very devoted to women. Therefore, he would gladly play this role to condemn men who are capable of it.
But when he saw the footage, he was impressed by the violence of the scene. It was a very strong and specific image. It was also kind of difficult because I was on the wire. I didn’t want to fall into a cliché, but at the same time, I couldn’t avoid violence.
To prepare the film, you met with victims of domestic violence. Have the actors also worked with victims?
I think all the actors learned by themselves. For example, I know that Melanie and Claudia have been listening to podcasts. Chloe prepared the TV movie with her friends. Everyone did a monster job before the shooting. I also recommend podcasts, documentaries, books…
Show Touchées associations?
Yes. It was something that really called to me. When I first showed it to the association Résonantes, Diariata N’Diaye, the manager told me that Touchée would be an incredible support for them. That calmed me down.
I can’t wait for it to come out for everyone to see. We showed the film in high schools and their reaction was very interesting. I think dialogue will be easier thanks to Touchées.
Who made the drawings that Tamara’s character portrays in the TV movie?
The pictures were done by the wife of Thomas Ramsey, director of photography. He studied fine arts and is very talented. These drawings don’t really exist in the comics, but it was interesting to me to see Quentin with this character drawing. It was also a way to express the character, which was very interesting.
Did your Touchées experience make you want to direct other projects?
Yes. I really want to continue in this field. I have projects that I’m starting to develop, but I can’t really talk about them yet. There is one that I have been wearing for a long time and I am on my way. Then there’s another one I want to develop and make for my sister (Audrey Lam, ed.), who is a very good actor (laugh). And then I’m holding Melanie Dutte too, that’s for sure (laugh).
Find Touchées on Thursday 22 September at 21:10 on TF1. The TV movie is now available exclusively on Salto.