At the Cannes Film Festival, Lola Quivoron caused a sensation with Rodeo (deliberately written without an accent), his first film, which will be released in theaters next Wednesday. The story of Julia (Julie Ledru) who is trying to establish herself in the middle of cross bitumen had received a mention from the jury of the Un Certain regard section, chaired by Valeria Golino.
But the film was also the subject of a violent controversy after an interview given by the director to Konbini where she implicated the police in the accidents that occurred during urban rodeos. Lola Quivoron expressed herself in a text published in The Parisian last July to explain that his remarks had been taken out of context. For 20 minutesthe 33-year-old filmmaker looks back on a topic that caught up with her this summer and also on the passion that sweeps her film, a moving, immersive and brilliantly staged portrait of a woman.
You distinguish the cross bitumen from the urban rodeo, but what is the difference?
Those are two different things. I never show urban rodeo in my film. On the other hand, the cross bitumen is the backdrop of my fiction. This expression refers to the passion that consists in piloting motocross and quads on the asphalt, and performing very technical and very virtuoso acrobatic figures by lifting the front wheel. It has nothing to do with an isolated, unconscious and dangerous practice that takes place in cities and that journalists call “urban rodeos”. Cross bitumen enthusiasts train on roads without traffic, without pedestrian crossing, outside inhabited areas, often in the middle of the countryside or in an industrial area. It is also a very family universe, with a strong group spirit, mutual aid, very marked codes, a great technicality. Many enthusiasts consider asphalt cross to be a mechanical sport that is destined to develop.
How did you integrate into the cross bitumen environment?
I discovered cross bitumen on the Internet in 2015 via the videos of Dirty Riderz Crew (the most important association of riders in France), while I was still a student at La Fémis. I went to meet them at their training ground. I was amazed by the acrobatics of the bikers as well as by the noise of the engines which reminded me of this phenomenon which I had already observed during my adolescence in Epinay-sur-Seine (93). The Dirty Riderz Crew gave me a very warm welcome, nothing to do with the difficult journey of Julia, the heroine of my film, within this community. I immediately felt at home in this very codified and very ritualized world. The passion is very contagious and the adrenaline is addictive. We experience incredible sensations, of the order of trance. These are the very strong feelings that Julia goes through in my film. Rodeo tells of his desire for speed, power, freedom.
Are you close to Julia, your heroine?
I am not her and she is not me. But, like her, I don’t identify with standardized representations, with gender assignments. I am between the two and that influences my view of the world. The meeting with Julie Ledru, discovered on Instagram, was decisive. His loneliness, his inner anger and his search for family overwhelmed me. Her personality helped me bring to life Julia, a strong woman whose face can be torn by violence. I wanted to show what it’s like to have a woman’s body in a society where determinism, social diktats and misplaced fantasies reign. Julia was born from this desire, which Julie Ledru understood and embodied.
Does your film have a documentary vocation?
I insist on saying that the film is pure fiction, very well written, unlike my graduation short film, In the distance, Baltimorewhich showed this environment in a naturalistic way. Rodeo is more like an action film deliberately devoid of psychology. It’s centered around my heroine who doesn’t represent the community as a whole. I leave a great freedom to the spectators to judge the actions of my character that I refuse to explain. It is up to the public to do this work. The reactions are also fascinating. Many young girls between 15 and 25 identify with Julia, as I did at their age with Emma Peel in the series Bowler hat and leather boots. The reactions of some older gentlemen are a little different as they are still stuck on an old system of perception. Rodeo communicates sociological groups that have never come together. That’s the strength of cinema.
Why is cross-bitumen so poorly regarded?
We tend to be afraid of what we don’t know and to stigmatize it. This was also the case for Rodeo : the public of the previews often entrust to me to be surprised to see that it is very different from what they imagined and that the polemic which surrounds it is unjustified. Once again, the riders I hang out with are looking for respectability and legitimacy. They would like to practice their discipline within a legal framework. The Dirty Riderz Crew have also opened a repair workshop for two wheels in the 13th arrondissement of Paris and participate in filming. They dream of sharing and transmission.
How can prejudices about the dangers of these practices be changed?
We must inform and not allow our brains to be eaten away by what we see in certain media and on the Internet. We must also change the situation for these young people. Repression cannot be the only solution. Education and prevention are essential and perhaps also the creation of legal avenues that would limit accidents by relieving congestion in housing estates. This was done in Tremblay-en-France (93), in 1979, with the Circuit Carole twenty minutes from Paris. The bikers, who were doing wild Runs at Rungis, and on the Paris ring road, had demonstrated to have a place reserved for them and the public authorities gave them their case, which limited accidents. The problem is not new. You have to meet these young people who are passionate about cross-country, to integrate them into a collective and citizen debate. It is towards this goal that Hélène Geoffroy, mayor of Vaulx-en-Velin (69) is aiming, who has embarked on prevention and the creation of dedicated spaces since a dramatic accident in her town in 2020.
What did you learn from the experience of the controversy?
At Cannes, Rodeo benefited from positive media coverage that went beyond the ideological positioning of the various newspapers. Konbini truncated my remarks to highlight a violent quote. I am not trying to discard myself, the responsibilities are shared. I understand that my comments may have offended. I learned that, when you are a young filmmaker, you have a responsibility and that you must therefore save your word, because everything that is said can be mediated and exploited. The debate quickly tends to become one-sided when your words are manipulated. So I became cautious. I will be careful not to let myself be thrown off balance.
Do you regret today having called your film “Rodeo”?
The urban rodeo is not the subject of my film, but I categorically refuse to censor myself. The film was almost titled Sanctuary Where The slab in reference to the refuge that the heroine finds in the middle of the cross bitumen and to her devouring anger. But Rodeo, written without accent, in the American way, seemed more fluid, in the movement, which corresponds more to this immersive narrative. The rodeo consists of staying in the saddle for eight seconds like cowboys in the United States and like Julia does on the handlebars of her bike. She tries to stay the course while she is manhandled from all sides. I understand how she feels. Rodeo is a portrait of a woman written by a woman and produced in twenty-nine days on a tiny budget of one million euros. Suffice to say that it is not the economy of Fast & Furiousnor of madmax !
Why was it so important for you to make this environment known?
Cinema is there to break down preconceptions, see another world and try to understand it without going through the violent relationship of the media and social networks. In this sense, the more controversy there is around Rodeo, the more I want to make my film exist. I make films to create a link. I want to bring the audience together around this encounter, around the emotion of my film, around this epic story. I want us to talk about the real subject of my film: the journey of this fiery and incandescent heroine. I hope that the debate will be open and productive and that it will not overshadow the power of cinema.