Interview with Xavier Istasse

Xavier

Return to The River People

Interview with Xavier Istasse (Director)

How did you come up with the idea of this documentary about the Meuse?

I started off as a cameraman and a photographer and became a director afterwards. I realized that the river had a huge visual potential. I started shooting and became aware that there was also a story to tell. A lot of people are passionate about the river and their lives are deeply connected with nature. People are really attracted to the river. Because of industrialization, the connection between the people and the river began to fade away. Rivers were demonized because they were polluted. Nowadays the connection is coming back because the river is getting cleaner.

My movie has a universal message because the story is similar to that of other rivers and the people who live in harmony with them.

I wanted to show people that a movie about a river could be inspiring. In my film, I only ask questions and do not provide any answers. My goal was to investigate the relationship people have with the river. I did not want to explain anything; I just wanted to illustrate the situation.

How long did the shooting take? As we see scenes from summer to winter...
I wanted to show every season. I was very lucky because my interviewees had a lot of wonderful stories to tell and I was able to obtain a lot of footage fairly quickly. I didn't spend hundreds of hours shooting because I got a lot of good content fast. It was very easy because their stories were full of humor and emotion.

You met plenty of people for this documentary, was there a story that moved you or interested you the most for some reason?
I stayed friends with the main participants. We continue to go on boat rides together. My children love it! I wasn't moved by one particular story, but rather by the friendship which developed among us. We continue to have an excellent relationship from a personal and professional perspective.

How easy or difficult was to get the people to show you their personal archival footage?
People were very enthusiastic about the movie because they also thought that the river had a lot of artistic potential. They helped me a lot and were very open. I was very fortunate to be able to use their personal archives which illustrated the former glory of the river. I wanted to bring out the best of the Meuse and its valley. It used to be a real gem and part of that gem is still alive. The river also has an extraordinary economic potential which we should reconsider. It could become a source of income and tourism in a region where tourism is declining. The river could bring hope for the local economy.

Are you working on any projects at the moment? Can you tell us something about them?
I am working on a film about the Walloon language. I wanted to make another film about my region to bring out the best of it.

Return to The River People

Sign up for the Eurochannel Newsletter!

Don't miss our latest line-up, exclusive sweepstakes and events!