“I actually forgot everything about this situation, but I dreamt about it,” Benoît Martin says of the event that inspired the film
“The Geneva Convention” is a 15-minute, coming-of-age short film by Benoît Martin — the founder of French production company Année Zéro — that tells the story of a group of teenagers learning to solve their problems peacefully.
It’s one of 12 finalists in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival, and it’s based on a dream Martin once had — one that resurfaced and event from his own youth.
“I did ‘The Geneva Convention’ because I was recalling something that happened to me when I was [the] age of the protagonist. I actually forgot everything about this situation, but I dreamt about it,” Martin told TheWrap in a Skype interview. He said that in his real-life situation, he was just like the main character, Hakin (Azzedine Bouabba) — who heads home from high school when he runs into a group of friends awaiting a fight. It all starts because a classmate owes another one money.
“In the real story, what happened when I was around 16 [years old] — it was the same situation where a friend of mine, who didn’t give back money to a guy, was supposed to take the bus and many people were waiting for him to beat him up. But in the real story the bus arrived and everyone got back home,” Martin recalled, saying that he was far from interested in a fight. “It was a friend of mine who should give the money and in the other side, I had a friend of mine — but they didn’t know each other, so it was a bit strange.”
In the film, Hakin tries to play peacemaker between the two groups of friends. But it’s another character, Nawel (Soumaye Bocoum), who actually ends up successfully convincing everyone to solve the problem without resorting to a physical altercation — and the solution involves chocolate croissants.
“At this age… every small event is something really important, huge, and that’s also the aim of the title. For them it’s really like a world war,” Martin said. “But actually, it’s just nothing and there is a way not to fight… There is also at this age for the young men, it’s a time that questions… how you become a man.”
It’s a situation in which boys are asked to be men, Martin said.
“For me, it’s important the we can laugh about the situation,” said the filmmaker, adding that he hopes audiences can identify with one or two of the teenage characters in the film, and ask themselves: How would I act in the situation?
Martin has directed two other short films, “Hero” (2013) and “Haram” (2010).
Watch “The Geneva Convention” above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22.