The Best of Dorien B., whose director Anke Blondé earned the Hamptons International Film Festival’s Breakthrough Achievement in Filmmaking Award, follows “Dorien B.” (Kim Snauwaert), who to the outside world appears to have a “picture perfect” life – two children, a doting spouse, and successful veterinary practice – but a series of unexpected setbacks causes “Dorien” to reexamine her life.
We caught up with Belgium-based Blondé at the Festival to learn more about the story’s origin, why it was a cathartic project for the filmmaker, working with first-time actors, and more.
You wrote and directed The Best of Dorien B. Could you discuss the story’s origin?
AB: Well, it all started about 12 years ago. I had this strong feeling of abandonment that I was sort of left alone. I had this feeling because my parents were divorcing, I had two children in a row, I just moved into town, my career wasn’t going well. So, I had this feeling that I had to step back and needed to reconsider the choices I made in my life and why I made the choices. Maybe it was because of my education and stuff like that. So, sort of an identity crisis and this emotion is actually the base of the movie. The movie is about “Dorien B.,” who is a woman who has a seemingly “picture perfect” life, with two children, a lovely husband and thriving veterinary practice. After a while, you get to learn that it’s not all that “picture perfect.” A series of events take place that we call bad luck. Her parents are breaking up, her husband has a fallout from an affair, and she discovers that she has a lump in her breast. She sort of feels alone and that she has no one to talk to because she tries to talk to somebody, but, everybody around her is sort of busy with their own business. It’s a dramedy, it’s actually a portrait of an identity crisis and one woman’s attempt to let go of the coping mechanisms that used to define her life for so long.
After having this feeling, how did the project progress to the big screen?
AB: Well, the script writing was the most difficult part, because I think I was too insecure about myself. The other thing was that because it’s a character driven move, it could go anywhere. That was a difficulty as well. But in the end, it all came out good and the funding went very fluidly. Ever since I was on the set, it was like a present to me. I enjoyed it a lot.
Since this project was personal, was it cathartic to make?
AB: Yes, quite. It was cathartic for me because I finally made my first feature, my debut. I don’t think the story was cathartic for me because it happened such a long time ago. But I think the making of it, and the feeling that I got that everything falls together, like the puzzle falls together for myself, personally. This is the thing I wanted to do most in my life, to direct them, to be there on set and to enjoy it so much. So in that way it was cathartic.
Could you speak a bit about The Best of Dorien B.‘s cast?
AB: Well, I was looking for a long time for an actress to do the lead part, which was difficult because she had to have good drama, good humor in her. I found it really hard. I’m sort of an intuitive person, so it needed to feel good and when you look at it, it needs to be easy to look at. I couldn’t find that, and actually, Kim, she’s not a “real” actress. She’s a mom that I met at school. It’s sort of a romantic story, but it’s really true. She used to do drama in high school, but she’s actually a conceptual artist. She used to do some more performance theatre, but this was her first time feature ever.
What was it like working with a first time actor as the lead?
AB: Brilliant. She was so supportive, and I was supportive to her and we felt like we really connected. She’s a really intelligent woman. She’s really intelligent and really engaged in the movie and she was like a real pro. More pro than some other real pro people. She was really well prepared all the time. She always knew her lines. She even made some suggestions about it. I had rehearsals a lot with her and the husband, Jelle, who’s also not a “real” actor. He’s a comedian, so he can act. But, also, it was his first time feature film.
Where can the film be seen next?
AB: The next premiere is in the Netherlands. It just premiered in Belgium. The premiere was really nice, really well received, really warm reactions. In China, it was already in the cinemas. But, for the rest of the world, we don’t have any distribution yet. So, we’re looking for some distributors.
What are you working on next?
AB: I’m working right now on the series called Red Light. It’s about three women whose lives get entangled when one of the husbands of the women goes missing. It’s a prostitute, detective and an opera singer. The husband of the opera singing goes missing and that’s why the two lives get entangled. I’m co-directing it.