Exclusive Interview - Winner of the ÉCU Film Festival’s top award


First-time director Rocco Labbé took home the top prize of ‘Best European Independent Film’ last night at this year’s ÉCU Film Festival, with his WW2 period drama ‘Berlinoises’.

Set during the battle of Berlin in 1945; ‘Berlinoises’ follows the story of four Soviet soldiers who enter a civilian housing estate and begin to plunder their way through the building. As Nazi Germany stands on the brink of defeat the soldiers enter an apartment with two terrified German girls hiding from the chaos as troops flood the streets below. The sergeant leading the small patrol locks himself in the room with one of the girls and the story unfolds.

‘Berlinoises’ is an exceptional piece of filmmaking prepared meticulously over the course of three years. Starting from the ground up, Rocco Labbé wanted to make his first short film a powerful story, with characters that could identify with the subject, and he wanted audiences to feel completely emerged in a city under siege. From the production design to the acting, which included native speakers both in Russian and German, Rocco brought together an incredible team to make his short film come true. Producer Julien Rouch who also attended the festival had 10 years of experience in the industry and played pivotal role in making the film become such a success.

Find out here exclusively how the French film director made this film happen with an A-list team behind films such as ‘Amelie Poulin’, ‘The Pianist’, ‘Taken’, ‘Jean D’arc’, ‘Bourne Identity’ and ‘Leon’.

Interview with Rocco Labbé

Iain: How does it feel to win the top prize at the ÉCU European Independent Film Festival?

It feels great. It feels like being drunk.no..no its amazing. It’s written ‘Best European Independent Film’. This is quite a large title. It sounds like…too much!

Iain: How did you go about finding the support to make your film?

Rocco: I’m glad you asked because I am thinking about it very often. The movie exists today, it’s a relief, but the real pride that I have is that the team gave me their support. I owe them everything because basically from the moment that I had the script in my hand and the moment that I started shooting, it took three years. So there was a lot of jogging. I thought that jogging was a good metaphor. It was a long run getting this film done. If I didn’t run around the circle, and I stopped running, the film would not get made. And with the James Brown music, it’s the best motivational music. He had nothing, and then he did it, and everything is possible.

So, I contacted some of the best DPs and the idea was since I was inexperienced and I only had my script, I tried to have the best script possible, that was professional and neat; to cut all the fat from it and keep the essence. With it I tried to contact some very expierenced DPs and set designers in different professions, thinking that “If they accept, I’m going to learn everything from the best, and I am going to get the best film I can get.”

In France, you have the association of DPs and you have the association of Set Designers and all of the best are online and you have their emails and phone numbers. So I contacted them by email and some of the best answered. So it was really a dream come true.

When I first got the answer from Carlo Varini, the DP, I was amazed. He’s a great DP. He made Luc Besson’s first movie. (‘Le Grand Bleu’)

Iain: How did you convince them to be interested in your project? It must have been such a difficult task?

Rocco: From the get go it was really weird I must say. I was so grateful. There is one amazing man named Vincent Arnardi who’s the sound mixer of the movie. I contacted him by email. I had seen that he had made some of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s movies so I said “I have Vincent Arnardi now, you know, I can do more, I can get the best”. It was very important to have a good sound design because ‘Berlinoises’ was essentially based on sound effects. It was important that they were experienced, but also with good vibes and his answer was full of smilies (on the email). The coincidence was that he was working in Russia, it was a war movie, and he said from the get go, “You know what, I didn’t even read your script, I’m going to do it, and I am going to do it for free. I received help when I was young, and I am going to give you help now.”

What lessons did you learn from doing this?

Rocco: The best technicians are open-minded and ready to take a challenge with young people. They could have said “I’m on a big set, I don’t have time to look at this,” but they gave me the chance.

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