Don’t let the title fool you, North Sea Texas has nothing to do with the Lone Star State; in Belgian filmmaker Bavo Defurne’s first feature length film it has everything to do with how his young protagonist has a view of the world.
“Texas is a bar where young Pim and his mother hang out a lot,” explains Defurne. “Pim lives in a lonely street and the bar is almost his only connection to the rest of the world. The film is set in the sixties and in my country Texas was hip in that time.”
North Sea Texas, based on the novel Nooit gaat dit over (Never is this about) by Flemish author André Sollie, is the story of Pim who at age 16 puts away his dreams of princesses and beauty queens and starts to dream about the boy next door.
For Defurne it is more than just another coming of age story and the reason he was originally drawn to Sollie’s novel.
“It has another take on the coming-of-age theme because it is positive,” he says. “Rather than focusing on the outside world, on others, this movie focuses on the inside world, the lovers.”
Despite being given total freedom in adapting Sollie’s novel for the screen though, Defurne says that other than the title change there are few differences between his film and the source material.
“André considers his book finished. He wanted the adaptation to be a new and fresh work of art, so we looked for another title. He gave me total freedom in the adaptation, but I didn’t feel the need to change a lot anyway.”
One way in which Defurne has put his own stamp on the material though, and a big reason for its success, is the fairytale style that he has used in telling the story.
“If you want to see the world, look through the window, the world is rather chaotic and boring,” he says. “I make movies to show the world in another light. Movies can make life worth living, because they show the inner world – the world you see when you close your eyes.”
For Defurne, who put another project on hold to pursue North Sea Texas, the road to completion was not easy given its subject matter. Having auditioned hundreds of young boys for the role of Pim and with the window of opportunity for filming during the holidays fast approaching, it wasn’t until 14-year old Jelle Florizoone (pictured above with co-star Mathias Vergels) came onto the scene that Defurne finally knew he had his movie.
“Now that you ask, I think I should have panicked,” says Defurne at the possibility of not having found an actor to play Pim. “Strangely I did not really panic too much. One casting agent once told me no film has ever been shot without a cast. It might be this philosophy that helped me, or simply the adrenaline, the stubbornness of my vision. And it was worth the struggle [as] we found a wonderful and very talented Pim.”
Despite the difficulties in finalizing his cast, it still came as a surprise to Defurne that he was pushing boundaries with his film and something he views as a sign of how times have changed.
“With my short films, there was never such a fuss about love and nude scenes. I think the youth is more prudish than they were ten years ago. We were born naked and should be proud of who we are, instead of hiding what makes you unique.”
With great festival buzz, positive press and a couple awards now under its belt, Defurne is thankful for the attention that North Sea Texas is receiving and is looking forward to life as a feature filmmaker.
“It is my responsibility to move the audience, so tears and laughter are important for me, but reviews and awards can help attract the audiences to the movie. So they can be very helpful to activate my dialogue with the audience.”
Plays as part of the 2012 Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Friday, August 17 at 7pm and is presented by GayVancouver.Net on Friday, August 24 at 5pm at the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas, 820 Granville Street. Visit http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca for more information.