Currently in the cinema, Suprêmes looks back on the beginnings of JoeyStarr and Kool Shen within the legendary group NTM. DashFUN spoke with director Audrey Estrougo about the preparation of this biopic unlike any other.
Committed filmmaker, Audrey Estrougo took on the challenge of telling the genesis of the French rap group NTM with the film Suprêmes. This biopic, carried by the duo Théo Christine and Sandor Funtek, traces the beginnings on the music scene of JoeyStarr and Kool Shen with the backdrop of an inventory of the society of the time and a dive into their personal lives.
Presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Suprêmes arrives today in dark rooms to stir up spectators’ fever. DashFUN met the director, who returned to the important preparation of Suprêmes and what she wanted to convey through this film, co-written with Marcia Romano.
DashFUN: What made you want to look at the emergence of rap and hip-hop on the French music scene through the beginnings of NTM between 1989 and 1992?
Audrey Estrougo: What made me want to tell about these beginnings, of this group, is that Suprême NTM is the first group to say loud and clear that there is a problem among young people in the suburbs and that you have to look at them. “Look your youth in the eye”, that means what it means.
And this youth has been ignored, instrumentalized and abandoned for 30 years. They [JoeyStarr et Kool Shen, ndlr] were prophets and said what was going to happen and described what was already happening. At the time, we preferred to point the finger at them because they were called Nique Ta Mère rather than listen to them. It is the synthesis of all that that I wanted to tell.
This political discourse is felt in the backdrop of the film and echoes our current society …
This is what is sad actually. This is something that depressed me quite a bit, especially during the editing, where there was all this archival research work going on in parallel. Beyond the fact that nothing has changed, that nothing changes, it is really a bottle of water in the sea in fact.
What is terrible is that they wanted that to change. They believed in it and all of their energy was directed solely towards this goal. That we hear them and that change, they asked only that. And it has never been done. And as a result today, we have an even worse social framework where everything has deteriorated.
We don’t even have these spokespersons there, we don’t even have this youth there. She is on her knees and no longer wants to believe it. This is what is dramatic. It’s the people who ruled us who shot us all.
Are these topics that were discussed with JoeyStarr and Kool Shen upstream during the writing or preparation of the film? Was it important to have the validation of the artists concerned?
Sure. I know that’s what Didier liked from the start [JoeyStarr, ndlr], to tell that precisely and that there be this political discourse very strong and anchored in society. It’s something that made sense to them and is part of their DNA. There was a logic to it all.
How were Théo Christine and Sandor Funtek chosen? And how was the shoot with them?
It lasted 8 months and I didn’t know if I should take young people who were rapping and dancing or young people who were just young people or actors. I met several profiles of artists and non-professionals and I kept the two actors in the end because they had done a real job of interpretation. We are not too used to this way of working and approaching roles in France. They worked like Americans.
After, we set up a working method for a year, they got into the shoes of their characters. I had prepared a program, it was super theoretical but with a meaning so that they could ultimately be free to compose their characters. Because we are all the same in a fiction and not in a docu-fiction but we have to believe in it.
They are incredible in their performance but physically they are not Bruno [Kool Shen, ndlr] and Didier, or even vocally, notably for Théo. In Sandor’s case, it’s creepy, Bruno used to tell me that he sometimes felt like he got along when Sandor spoke.
In any case, we had the time to find the space to capture who they were elsewhere than in the mime. We took in their character, their psychology, their energy and we brought that back on stage. It’s a big job of assimilation. We really put …