Morgan Cini, welcome to the World Film Festival in Cannes! Thank you for this compelling work and your beautiful photography. Please tell us more about the genesis of this project!

The origin of this project would be challenging to identify precisely. I made this film outside the rules generally established in the classic movie-making process.

It is a process that has matured over time and through the various trips I have made worldwide over 11 years in a vacation context.

My passion for cinema being what it is, I always wanted to film landscapes that seemed inspiring to me (urban or natural landscapes) in the different countries in which I traveled for two reasons—I knew that I would probably not return, and I wanted to use them one day as illustrations or transition images in a future film without having a clear idea of the story I would tell.

This is how, over the past 11 years, I have accumulated footage from around ten countries. I gradually understood that it could be fantastic material for creating memory scenes.

Those scenes of memories naturally led me to a story imbued with mystery and, therefore, to the thriller genre I particularly like.

That was like a puzzle that came together. Step by step, I started writing the screenplay in my head in 2018, around the idea of an adventurous journalist travelling the world for his job and finding himself having to dig deep into his memory to finish editing his documentary.

So, I already had specific footage even before filming the main scenes with the actors. At the same time, I wanted to write a personal script, with the footage of the world integrating naturally into the structure of my story.

Pierre Baron is an investigative journalist and reporter for a media company called MediaNews. From Sri Lanka to Bangladesh, North Africa, and Brazil, he travels the world searching for investigation topics. Is his motivation to bring the truth to the man on the street “Because THE FRENCH want to know” or just to bring criminals to justice?

I wanted to imagine Pierre Baron as a French hero as if we don’t see them anymore in the current French cinema. The French cinema that I love is very much set between the 60s and 80s when the films of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Delon, Ventura, and Gabin represented the real cinema heroes who make up our heritage. We have, in my opinion, lost this tradition. However, I think a cinema without iconic heroes is a cinema which lacks breadth and doesn’t offer any reference points.

You note the dialogue “Because the French want to know,” but another journalist also speaks of Pierre as “the most popular and respected French field journalist in the world.” What I wanted to show above all was a French adventurer who shines throughout the world and someone who will stop at nothing to bring criminals to justice.
Then, the MediaNews slogan you are referring to is a logical continuation of a criminal being brought to justice.
To me, people’s right to be informed and to know the truth seems as essential as the fight against corruption.

That is especially true today, where the proliferation of media on the internet no longer allows people to differentiate a fact from an opinion clearly.
Finally, there is another important dimension, more human and which is at the heart of the plot —to introduce not only a journalist, but also his relationship with his wife to whom he owes a lot of his success.

According to UNESCO, “Investigative Journalism means the unveiling of matters concealed either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances – and the analysis and exposure of all relevant facts to the public. This way, investigative journalism contributes to freedom of expression and media development”.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists also plays a role here. Can we say that this is an endangered profession? How important is it to maintain awareness levels as high as possible against the current geopolitical situation and the rise of autocratic regimes?

The geopolitical questions that you raise are of such dimension that I don’t know if, as a director, I am the most competent to answer.

First, it seems to me that artists and directors are natural “sponges” trying to understand what our society and our times suffer from. They then try to provide an answer or comment through entertainment, in this case, cinema, as far as I am concerned.
I think that reporting/journalism as a profession is experiencing an existential crisis at the moment because of the multiplication of media that I have just mentioned, which is redefining its meaning completely.

Today, a YouTuber with a camera who covers a subject on the internet can call himself a journalist. But how can we judge the level of expertise of some fledgling journalists on a YouTube channel and compare them to other journalists who have worked in this profession for over 30 years in mainstream media?

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the mainstream media must also, and that’s a good thing, understand that emerging media on YouTube is likely to have a more substantial following because the audience increasingly doubts the statements made by the official media. They also consider this politically oriented.

We always fall back on the essential distinction that the journalist and the people have to be able to make between the facts and the opinion on an actual fact.
Unfortunately, the autocratic regimes that you speak of constitute many countries in the world and sometimes are very powerful militaries.

For these specific examples, only the awakening of the people can change democracy without a real-life Pierre Baron!

Such regimes also find their essence in the very history of their country’s civilization and culture when the very notion of human rights and the right to be informed constitute an existential threat. Therefore, the answer is complex, and we must consider that the world is multipolar and not just limited to the Western hemisphere.

Pierre is in his hospital bed. The intrusion of a colleague disturbs him deeply, as he seems to be in shock and suffering from memory loss. His colleague tells him about his wife Camille, who is also missing.
Pierre is in denial of the situation and is distressed. He is clutching on a syringe. We presume it contains a lethal injection. In the subsequent coup de théâtre, we learn that Pierre has been in a coma for four months and that his intrusive colleague was his nemesis. Tell us about investigative journalism and its mental health implications.

I’ll be honest with you! I didn’t do, nor did I wish to do, any research into journalists’ mental health when writing the script or preparing my film. I approached the character of Pierre differently, more from a human perspective that everyone can relate to.
The public attaches itself to Pierre through his human behavior, his anger, his excesses, his hubris, his psychological and moral weaknesses, and his desire to finish his work above all else. We all have ideals and weaknesses that prevent us from achieving them.

The story above all allows us to identify with Pierre Baron and the schizophrenic nightmare he faces because we all have within us a duality between a virtuous part and an evil part.
Pierre is, ultimately, torn between a desire to remain in the resentment of his breakup with his wife and his absolute need to find her, even if it means ending his life in a wheelchair. That is quite ironic for a journalist who has spent his career running around the world!

We find out that Pierre’s wife Camille had decided to do a feature on water supply and the environment with Pierre. The couple ended up uncovering a water pump scandal in Egypt. The corrupt water company’s hitmen chased them around, and Camille went missing. For investigative reporters, the urgent dimension of handling jobs on a day-to-day basis is a way of life that takes over one’s couple and family life. Do you believe it is a calling? How long can a journalist’s career last?

I believe journalism is a profession that can only be a vocation. I also think it’s a job that I thought about because I see similarities with the artistic profession, i.e., trying to understand the world around us and bringing a message or a reflection to it. This activity can occupy our minds almost all the time, so we don’t really know how to distinguish the moments when we talk about it at work and during breaks.

I never forgot what a journalist once said: “I never take a vacation because the world never takes one, either.”
Again, journalism is close to art as a profession without giving in to excess. We retire when we think our physical or mental abilities can no longer keep up.
Back on the topic of cinema, let’s not forget that Cecil B. DeMille filmed the Ten Commandments while being carried around on a stretcher in Egypt! Maybe a journalist like Pierre can continue to work from a hospital bed as long as he has his wit about him, even if he can no longer travel!

There is the violence of the news flows, the pressure for Pierre to finish his assignment, and the reportage at the top of his agenda. We can, as viewers, feel the present danger and the pressure. Your soundtrack also plays a role here. It is proving extremely effective in setting the atmosphere, maintaining the stress and tension, and suspending disbelief. How important is a soundtrack?

The soundtrack was the subject of meticulous work, particularly regarding the opening scene of a tribute to Pierre from various journalists.

I hired Jim Foster, an excellent sound editor, specifically for this opening scene because I wanted different voices, where one journalist would start a sentence while another finished it, to create a cascade of congratulations illustrated by a view of the world.

The music was written by composer Nicolas Neidhardt, whose abstract, poetic, and epic style I really like. It fits so well with the universe I wanted for Portée Disparue. He is a composer who works in Los Angeles on significant films. The oppressive atmosphere owes a lot to his work, which fits perfectly into the thriller genre.

Finally, the sound design during the opening and souvenir scenes was also the subject of meticulous work by sound mixer Paul Bronze.
There are images that we see for no more than two seconds. Yet we went with a specific sound environment for each country on screen.

In 15 minutes, we travel through 8 countries: Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, the United States, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and the Dominican Republic, which is not typical for a short film economy. Therefore, the atmosphere had to match the scale and exoticism that I wanted for these images of the world.

Tell us about any upcoming cinema and movie plans you have.

I am currently preparing my next film called “The Prototype”. It is an anticipation thriller set mainly in New York. I am also writing two feature films, an adventure film and an adventure cartoon for children.
These are two very ambitious projects; it is still too early to give more details.

Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes?

The COVID-19 period has undoubtedly been a very difficult one for cinema, not only in France but also in the United States and perhaps more widely in many countries around the world.
It certainly had rare positive effects among screenwriters who had more time to write at home.
I also remember that some movie channels were free to access during lockdown. That was a chance to enjoy many old films!
More seriously, cinema operators suffered greatly, especially in the United States, with certain theaters closing permanently.

I don’t know if the post-COVID period shows us any fundamental changes in the film industry.
There is a new trend today among spectators brought about by streaming platforms. Cinemagoers want to watch series and movies at home rather than in a theater. And COVID has done little to reverse this trend.
However, I remain convinced that the cinema experience is unique and sacred.
You can’t press pause, go to the bathroom, or grab something to eat, and you can’t talk in a loud voice. The screen is bigger, and the sound is generally better. And we enjoy the film in the presence of strangers.
All in all, the film imposes itself on the viewer. When you watch a film at home, it’s the opposite. Therefore, our approach and point of view can be very different.
It is up to us, producers, directors and screenwriters, to ensure that we offer films that our audience will want to see in theaters, without canceling what the streaming service offers.


Director Biography – Morgan Cini

I’m a producer and director based in Paris. A graduate of ESRA (Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle), I completed a fourth year of study in New York in 2010.

For the past 14 years, I’ve been directing commercials and feature films, including a comedy called La Consultation (The Consultation) which won the Fiction Award Winner at the Central Illinois Feminist film Festival in 2022.

My latest short film is a psychological thriller called Portée Disparue (Declared Missing), which has won 15 awards worldwide to date.

In addition to my directing and producing work, I’m also a script doctor for feature films of all genres (recently comedy, adventure, thriller and drama). I like to help writers, directors and producers correct their scripts and turn their intentions into reality.

I’m also a director’s advisor on various short films, including a buddy movie comedy called Breakdown, directed by Gabriel Tibi and shot in New York in 2022, for which I co-wrote the screenplay.

The film has been a huge success around the world, winning over 100 awards worldwide, mainly in the United States, and in the most prestigious categories (Best Film, Best Comedy, Best Screenplay, Best Original Story, Best Actor and Best Actress).

I’m currently developing my next film, entitled “The Prototype”, an anticipation and psychological thriller set in New York.

Director Statement

Let’s look for images the public will never forget.

©2024 Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich

Keep in touch

Subscribe to our Newsletter