Eric Lavaine: how to tell stories with humor

Eric Lavaine, French filmmaker and President of the FIFO jury, will discover French Polynesia through this 15th edition. Interview with a filmmaker whose leitmotif is: humor and the story of men and women.


“Like most Europeans, my perception of French Polynesia is probably based on clichés. Thanks to the FIFO, my viewpoint will be enriched.” Eric Lavaine, President of the Jury of the 15th FIFO, considers that Europeans have a very egocentric vision and he questions this point of view. “As Europeans, we believe that Europe is at the center of the world but why us more than the Chinese, Melanesians or Polynesians?” During four days of festival screening, the French filmmaker intends to sharpen his perception of this part of the world. Working primarily in fiction, Eric Lavaine is nevertheless a big fan of documentaries. What interests him in this format is to discover individual destinies. Delighted with this Polynesian adventure and the broad and diverse range of his FIFO companions, the President of the Jury explains: “In the past, it was customary in documentaries to follow 5 to 6 characters, whereas, today, we follow 1 character as in fiction. There is an interest in developing a character with whom the public can identify and feel empathy for. Above all, when looking at a documentary we discover the story of a man or woman.” Some jury members are from Oceania, while others are metropolitans, audiovisual professionals, politicians or even religious persons. For Eric Lavaine, this jury will surely enable diversified viewpoints. “Of course, my role for the FIFO is to give my point of view and to defend it but I am not narrow-minded,” he says, with the hint of a smile.


Humor, as a means to communicate


Smiles, laughs… humor forms an important part of the filmmaker’s career. In 1988, Eric Lavaine made his debut on the encrypted TV channel, Canal +, first as scriptwriter for the Les Guignols de l’Info program, and then for the slapstick medical series H. For many years, writing and television remains his primary interest before he decides to become a director. In 2006, he directs his first full-length feature Poltergay with the well-known actor Clovis Cornillac. Incognito is his first box office success, with the singer Benabar and the humorist Franck Dubosc. In 2010, his film Protéger et servir is released. The film is moderately successful but Eric Lavaine persists in comedy and directs a new film, Bienvenue à bord, with several famous contemporary comedians. In 2014, his film Barbecue is one of his biggest hits with more than 1,5 million tickets sold. A success that has not let up… In 2016, Retour chez ma mere is critically acclaimed. Although his most recent film, L’embarras du choix, is less popular it is a farce that deals with an important and serious social issue. Which is what Eric Lavaine likes: to address dramatic events with humor. “Humor is a way of communicating. When you are able to make someone laugh, you create a different environment in which one can speak about things. With humor, everything becomes agreeable; it offers lightness and enables one to more easily accept life, which as we all know will one day come to an end.”



Boredom feeds the imagination


Humor has always played an important role in the filmmaker’s life. As a child, he was bored growing up. Naturally hyperactive, it was this boredom that fired Eric Lavaine’s imagination. “Moreover, I regret that nowadays children are no longer bored. They are always occupied which leaves no room for boredom and imagination,” he explains, having always used humor to transcend his physique. “For a long time, I was physically small, growing when I was 18/20 years old, so I used humor. Today, we realize that humor can be powerful as in the way that business leaders and even politicians use it.” When he arrrived in French Polynesia, the filmmaker who continues to smile regardless of the incessant rainfall in Tahiti over the past few days, immediately sensed the Polynesian’s jovial humor. He is not fooled; he knows that the hot climate, the sunshine has a significant impact. “When one lives in a hot and sunny climate, one lives outdoors among the others, and one smiles. After the FIFO, I will remain several weeks in Tahiti, with my wife and friends, to learn more about this country,” the filmmaker tells us. Keenly observant, Eric Lavaine has, in just a few days, already observed an interesting theme: “people go out in the sun to solve their problems. We all have our inner problems; we carry them around as we would suitcases. But we can’t solve them just by going out in the sun.” It is a subject that may provide the filmmaker with inspiration for a future comedy… Meanwhile, Eric Lavaine, who describes himself as “being selfish in life,” will above all enjoy himself as he discovers Pacific documentaries.



FIFO / Suliane Favennec