Stephanie Lamouri is a French documentary filmmaker who works as an independent international writer, director and producer. She has filmed documentaries in Iraq, Africa, South America and Central America covering topics such as modern slavery and illegal immigration. She began her career working in Africa as a writer for GEO magazine.
Being Thunder will premiere in the US at the Framline Film Festival and will be available to stream from June 10 to 27.
W&H: Describe the movie to us in your own words.
SL: This is a movie about unity, origins, love and identity. Through the story of one person, Chirinty, [a two-spirit genderqueer teenager from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island,] The film shows the consequences of colonialism on indigenous people and how gender stereotypes have been deeply skewed by colonialism and the white perspective.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
SL: I really wanted to make a documentary about a young Native American fighting for his community. I’m sick of the clichés, at least here in Europe, about Native Americans, who are always described as drug addicts, alcoholics, or depressed who do nothing. I first watched, completely at random online, a video of Shirente and Nikki singing along a lake. loved it. I wanted to know Chirenti. I sent a message to the Narragansett language page and was answered by Dawn, Sherenté’s grandmother.
W&H: What do you want people to think after watching the movie?
SL: I hope they will be touched and affected by the story of Shiranti, which is a universal story of love and acceptance. I hope they understand how deep the desire to destroy and control the indigenous culture is, and how hard it is to survive and keep your roots alive against colonialism.
W&H: What is the biggest challenge in the film industry?
SL: Always the right distance. To be there, but not to be there much. It is very intimate to photograph people in their daily lives. They give you a lot. So, always respect this gift.
W&H: How did you get your film financed? Share some ideas of how the movie was made.
SL: First I got a CNC (Centre National du Cinéma) box to write, then another small CNC production box again. I worked for months with these two funds and used my own money.
When filming ended, I made a trailer and showed it on Arte channel. They finally bought it and offered money, through a producer, to do the editing and make the movie.
W&H: What inspired you to become a director?
SL: My love for life. I love watching, listening, sharing with people, understanding their issues, and their cultures. As a teenager, I loved taking pictures and loved recording the voices of people speaking. There was no internet at the time – I was born in 1968. So when I first got a video camera, it was obvious that it would be the way to express myself and express my view of the world.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
SL: I haven’t been to any film school or documentary school or anything like that. I didn’t really get advice. I think people see me as a very assertive and self-made person, so they don’t give me any advice.
W&H: What’s your advice for other female directors?
SL: Be confident. Don’t listen to people who tell you that being a woman is going to be hard or even harder. This is a mistake. I’ve been to many places and situations where being a woman has really helped me. In many cultures, even in really difficult places like war zones or very masculine environments, people respect and help you because they respect your courage and strength.
W&H: Name your favorite female-directed movie and why.
SL: “Mudbound” by D. Reese. Strong story, good actors, powerful, and politicians.
W&H: How are you coping with life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you maintain your creativity, and if so, how?
SL: Well, it has been difficult to imagine the future in such turbulent times and to imagine how and when we will be able to travel again. So I’ve basically 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 promoting – and creating – negative stereotypes. What actions do you think should be taken to make Hollywood and/or the document world more inclusive?
SL: Change the perspective and point of view. For centuries our mentality has been based on and for the books and analyzes of the “white side”. Always try to look at the world from a different angle – not as your country taught you in school.