Paul Marques Duarte And Thomas Guentch Talk About “Harbor”

Liselotte Vanophem: Welcome at the Raindance Film Festival. Your film just been screened here. How does it feel for you?

Paul Marques Duarte (director/co-writer): We are very excited because this is the very first time the film was screened in the UK. It sounded like it was very well received.

Thomas Guentch (producer): We had great questions during the Q&A so that was very nice. This is a film that was shot on a ferry between France and England and so it was a great feeling to be able to present it to the British audience after people in France were already able to see. It’s very nice to hear the feedback from the people. It feels really good.

LV: Where did the story for this film come from?

PMD: I was working with an association in the refugees camp in Calais and I met a young boy there. We were there during the wintertime and so we wanted to help him. He just wanted to go to England. After a while, he realized that it indeed was easier and safer for him to ask for asylum in France so we helped him with that for a long time. While helping him, we never asked ourselves “is this illegal or not?”. We just tried to help him.

After experiencing that, I wanted to make a film about migrants and about the times we’ve been through. When I decided that I was making this movie, I met Blandine Jet, who’s the co-writer of this film, and I told her about my idea of a young boy on a ferry boat. From that, we wrote the script. We kept that message “helping someone without thinking if it’s legal or not” in the film because it’s important. The teacher in the film realizes that she can do something to help the boy and have a positive impact on his life.

LV: How did you guys get in touch? Or did you know each other before already?

TG: That’s a long story. I met Paul at a film festival when he was maybe 15 and he was already showing low and no-budget films. We’ve waited for a while to work together so that he could create a powerful story. That’s why we want to get a co-writer for this short movie so that she could help him with the story. Exploring the plot and building up the different characters. At first, we would only have focused on the migrant boy but we decided to see this story from the teacher’s point of view. Thanks to that, we got multiple angles we can follow this story from. A story about how a little gesture can have a big impact.

LV: Regarding the casting: Where did you find the teacher?

PMD: The teacher is quite famous in France. She’s Marian Bunnel and she made lots of films. I contacted her on Facebook. She answered my message and said, “Ok, send me the script”. She loved the script and so luckily we were able to make this film with her. She made a lot of films before and once in a while she also likes to do short films. Not all the actors do that in France and so we were very lucky she did that. That was great!

For the rest of the characters, it was the usual casting. We met up with a lot of young people in France and for some of them, it’s the first time that they would be in a film. Some of them already starred in a few short film or features as well.

TG: The whole class group was a real class.

PMD: When I met Thomas, I was in high school while I was studying the regular high school but also cinema lessons. We asked this school if the group wanted to participate in our film. The group in the film is a real class. They’re not actors but they were very up for it. Going with us on a trip and making a movie.

LV: The migrant boy was very important as well in this film. Was there a scene he and the teacher had to act out together beforehand?

PMD: Yes, we did a lot of rehearsals. We knew that shooting on the ferry was going to be a hard thing to do. We knew that we wouldn’t have all the time in the world. We wanted to practice everything so that we knew that there was chemistry between the actors. Because of the strong relationship between the teacher and the boy, we did some rehearsal before because we wanted to see how they react towards each other. It’s very hard for the young boy as well because his character doesn’t speak. He had to play this character without saying anything. He had to do it just by his way of acting and that’s why we did so many rehearsals.

LV: In this film, the children are going on a ferry trip from France to England. Can you tell a little bit more about how you shot those scenes?

PMD: Well, I did that crossing a lot when I was younger. It’s very famous for classes in French to take the ferry. I knew that those ferries are a beautiful place to make films in. Not easy but gorgeous. Filming on the ferry was just a crazy world.

TG: It was very challenging. Sometimes it’s very difficult to talk about that topic on the ferry between France and England and especially with all those kids on board. In total, we did 11 or 12 crossings. It was the perfect location but just a very difficult one. Because we were stuck there for the entire shoot, it felt like a moving prison for us.

PMD: Once we got in, we couldn’t get out anymore until the filming was done. The crossings were at night and so each night when the crossing would start, we were like “Ok, here we go again!”. It was a very wild sea and some of us got seasick. Luckily for us, nobody needed to leave the boat. However, it was great tough. The crew had to put a fight to make this film and sometimes it was very hard to shoot a scene.

LV: Looking back now at that experience: Would you do the same?

PMD: Of course. I think it was the best way to make this film. The next movie won’t be shot on a boat but if we were to make this film again, we would do it in the same way. It was a great experience. It’s very hard to get such a location to film at, especially when you’re making “just” a short film. We were really lucky to get a ferry as our location and to be able to shoot it on a real boat.

LV: Is this film going to other film festivals?

TG: Well, we’ve been taking this movie to over more than 40 film festivals. Next week, this film will be screened in L.A. by our distributor Salaud Morisset. Last year, they won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film with “Skin”. Our film is now qualified for the first selection of the Academy Awards.

PMD: With this film, I had the first opportunity to present it all over the world. I didn’t travel that much before but thanks to this film, I was able to go to Sydney, Cleveland, New York, etc. Even here in London, it’s great. I never had a film screened in London before. I was so excited about it.

TG: Paul is also a very young director because we shot this film when he was 22.

LV: One last questions: What’s next for you?

PMD: After his great experience, we want to make another film together. This year we were travelling so much that it was hard to start writing. However, right now we’re working on a new script. It’s again going to be a short film, shot in black and white. It will take place in the ’30s in France.

Originally published at on September 26, 2019.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store