James Bort’s Rise of Star featuring Catherine Deneuve joins the Oscar race

RISE OF A STAR | Trailer from FULLDAWA Films on Vimeo.

Director James Bort and Producer Boris Mendza’s beautiful film tackles female empowerment and difficulties women can face in the workplace. This wonderful tale features the iconic Oscar nominated and multi-award winning actress Catherine Deneuve. Rise of A Star has been voted by the Academy, to join the Oscar race and has been selected for the Live Action Short Film shortlist, beating more than one hundred and fifty films.

Emma is about to be a new Ballerina, but something upsets her.  A secret. A secret liable to undermine what she has spent her whole life on.

The legendary actress Catherine Deneuve stars as Mlle Jean and Rise of a  Star is the first short that Ms Deneuve has shot in 25 years. This is the screen debut for the award winning Prima Ballerina Dorothée Gilbert, who stars as the gifted Ballerina Emma. The film also stars Antonia Desplat as Victoire, who is known for her work in Victoria. The choreographer Youri is played by Pierre Deladonchamps, this talented actor won the Most Promising Actor award at the 39th César Awards.

Through their production company Fulldawa Films the Producer’s of Rise of A Star Boris Mendza, Gael Cabouat & David Atrakchi have an impressive slate of over 85 films, including My Old Lady with Kevin Kline & Maggie Smith, Frank & Lola starring Michael Shannon and the Talent Cannes Adami, a film collection in partnership with the Cannes Film Festival for over 25 years. Alongside the trio, Los Angeles based producer Jouri Smit joined Fulldawa Films. Mahdi Lepart created the stunning cinematography.

The Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday 23rd January, 2018.

Congratulations on ‘Rise of a Star’ reaching the Oscar shortlist this year! What was your reaction when you heard the news?

James Bort – It was close to midnight and we were at the Paris Opéra because my wife finished dancing. I received an email with the news, immediately checked the address thinking it was a joke and it wasn’t. Then, I called my producers & all the crew & cast of the film to share my joy and to congratulate them.

Before you took on the project, were you well versed in the behind the scenes lives of dancers and the ballet, or was this a topic you were then able to delve into and learn about?

James Bort – Dance, dancers and everything surrounding the art is embedded in my work and life. My wife, who plays the main character in the movie, is Principal at Paris Opéra Ballet. We worked together on so many projects, films, campaigns,  choreography, etc. I also worked with Benjamin Millepieds on a book and an exhibition and with lots of dancers and theaters in the world. It’s a very inspiring art.

The acting is fantastic, with Dorothée Gilbert particularly standing out. What was it like directing her, since she is primarily a ballerina, not a film actress?

James Bort – Dorothee is my wife and before all, this film is a love letter to her. It was a great chance and honor to do this movie with her. On stage, she’s famous because she is a great dancer, but in cinema, it’s totally different. You have to use your voice, and the medium is much more intimate. So she worked a lot with me and with a coach. What was fantastic, was the way she found instantly and intuitively the right emotion in every situation. She is absolutely amazing in it. It’s the rise of an actress. As you probably understood, I’m her biggest fan.

All areas of the film are impressive, including lighting and cinematography. Were you working with a team you’d collaborated with before?

James Bort – Thank you so much for your kind words. It was the first time we worked together and we instantly understood each other. They were aware that it was my first narrative, my producers at Fulldawa Films surrounded me and supported me all along the project.

Concerning the light and cinematography, I had the chance to work with a great DOP, Mahdi Lepart. I’m a photographer so it was easy to speak with him about all that. He understood my vision and the image I wanted to reach for. Light and cinematography was absolutely important for me but before all, my obsession was that I wanted the light to come from the actors. I wanted to sublime their inner light.

Of course, you also had the incredibly talented Catherine Deneuve, who has become a cinema icon. How did she become involved, and did you enjoy working with her?

James Bort – To work with Catherine Deneuve was an honor for me. I know she doesn’t like it when I say that, but she is an iconic women and a symbol of liberty and feminism. She’s one of the most inspiring women in the world.

It’s my first movie and I have learned so much from her because she sees everything in the script and on set. We are both perfectionist, and she is so talented and professional that she can bring the ideas beyond all your wishes.

What films have inspired you as a Director?

James Bort – All my life, I studied arts. Music, painting, choreography, comics, photography, theatre, architecture, all this arts are in my head when I made this film. I always follow my intuitions, and they come from arts.

I didn’t go to film school, so I had to create my own tools to speak with the team of the movie. I drew, I wrote, I brought the DOP to the museum to show him what light I wanted. I brought the sound designer at the opéra to hear the Boléro de Ravel and all the team to see a ballet. I also work in fashion industry and I love it, so I went shopping with the stylist. In fact, I love to share my passions and my influences with all the crew.

What would you like audiences to take away from ‘Rise of Star’? 8. Was it important to you to make a film about female empowerment and issues facing women?

James Bort – This film is a message of hope for all women. It talks about a woman who has to fight not to sacrifice any part of her. In cinema, there is to many hero’s and not enough strong and powerful heroin’s onscreen. I have a four years old daughter and what I would love to achieve, is to talk about women who will inspire my daughter and all women.

 It wasn’t a desire, it was a necessity. Sadly, as recent news has shown us, despite the progressive discourse, there is a long way to achieve the equality everyone is talking about. Yet this movie is not an advocacy film. It is a human film. It is a woman’s film, with women, a feminine film, following a heroin in her daily life. If it creates a conversation, the desire to move forward on these issues, then so much the better. What mattered to me was to tell the story of a woman who, in the name of old habits, is asked to relinquish an essential part of her being to continue existing as an artist. Deep down, the simple and universal story I am trying to tell with Rise of a Star is that of a woman who is fighting to choose her own life

In the future, do you have any specific ambitions as a filmmaker?

James Bort – Next step is a feature film, I’m writing it, it’s still about a woman and I hope to shoot it next in 2019.

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