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Stéphanie Lamorré Talks “Being Thunder,” Her Portrait of A Two-Spirit Genderqueer Teen

4 min read

Stéphanie Lamorré is a French documentary filmmaker working as an international independent writer, director, and producer. She’s shot documentaries in Iraq, Africa, South America, and Central America covering subjects such as modern slavery and illegal immigration. She began her career working in Africa as a writer for GEO magazine.

“Being Thunder” will have its U.S. premiere at Frameline Film Festival and will be available to stream from June 10- 27.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

SL: This is a film about unity, origins, love, and identity. Through the story of one person, Sherenté, [a two-spirit genderqueer teenager from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island,] the film shows the consequences of the colonization on Indigenous people and how gender stereotypes have been deeply twisted by colonialism and white perspective.

W&H:  What drew you to this story ?

SL: I really wanted to make a documentary about a young Native American person fighting for her / his community. I was tired of the clichés, at least here in Europe, about Native American people, who are always described as drug addicts, alcoholic, or depressed people doing nothing. I first watched, totally randomly on the internet, a video of Sherenté and Nkeke singing along a lake. I loved it. I wanted to know Sherenté.  I sent a message to the Narragansett language page and Dawn, Sherenté’s grandmother, answered me.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film ?

SL: I hope they will be touched and moved by the story of Sherenté, which is a universal story about love and acceptance. I hope they will understand how deep the desire was to destroy and dominate the Native culture, and how hard it is to survive and keep your roots alive against colonization.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film ?

SL: Always being at the right distance. Being there, but never being there too much. It’s very intimate to film people in their everyday life. They give you a lot. So, always respect that gift.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

SL: First I got a CNC (Centre National du Cinéma) fund for writing, then another small production fund from CNC again. I worked for months with those two funds and used my own money.

When the filming was done, I made a trailer and pitched  it to Arte channel. They finally bought it and gave the money, through a producer, to do the editing and make the film.

W&H:  What inspired you to become a filmmaker ?

SL: My love for life. I love to watch, hear, share with people, understand their issues, their cultures. As a teenager I loved to take pictures and I loved to record audio of people talking. There was no internet at that time —  I was born in 1968.  So the first time I got a video camera, it was obvious that it would be the way to express myself and express my vision of the world.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received ?

SL: I never did any cinema school or documentary filming school or anything like that. I never really received advice. I think people see me as a very determined and self-made person so they never give me any advice.

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors ?

SL: Be confident. Don’t listen to people telling you it’s gonna be hard or harder being a woman. It’s wrong. I have been in so many places and situations where being a woman really helped me. In many cultures, even really hard places like war zones or very masculine environments, people respect you and help you because they respect the courage and strength you have.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

SL: “Mudbound” by Dee Rees. Strong story, very good actors, powerful, and political.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic ? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how ?

SL: Well yes, it’s been hard to imagine the future in such uncertain times and imagine how and when we will be able to travel again. So I’ve mainly stayed creative during the pandemic writing new projects, not filming.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of under representing people of color on screen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive ?

SL: Change the perspective and point of view. Our mindset has been based for centuries on books and analyses made by and for the “white side.” Try permanently to perceive the world from a different angle — not as your country taught it to you at school.

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