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‘Fire Fire Fire,’ the Coming-of-Age Story of a ‘Modern Witch,’ Boarded by Rise & Shine, Trailer Debuts (EXCLUSIVE)

April 12, 20244 Mins Read

Talent-driven doc sales outfit Rise & Shine has boarded “Fire Fire Fire” (“Feu Feu Feu”), the feature debut of Swiss rising voice Pauline Jeanbourquin (“Dusk”), due to world premiere in the national competition strand of Nyon’s Visions du Réel docu festival. Variety has had exclusively access to the international trailer.

The poetic and captivating coming-of-age story of a young girl with healing talents, is produced by high-profile Geneva-based Close Up Films, credited for the 2023 Swiss Oscar entry “Thunder” and as co-producer of the Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro.”

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“I enjoy working on first features, meeting a new voice, exploring and questioning what it means to direct, figuring things out together. It’s a responsibility I find deeply fulfilling,” producer and Close Up Films’ co-owner Flavia Zanon says.

“Pauline reached out to me in 2019, and I was instantly drawn to the types of stories she wanted to tell and felt I could be the right partner to help her bring them to the screen. I like the way she looks at the world, how she is able to find grace in the smallest of things.”

Rise & Shine’s festival manager Anja Dziersk adds: “It’s one of the greatest challenges for any documentary filmmaker to capture genuine and authentic coming-of-age stories. We found it pretty amazing what Pauline Jeanbourquin achieves with ‘Fire Fire Fire,’ and we are sure that it helped her that she herself is still pretty close to that age group. We are happy to work with this great talent on her debut film.”

“Fire Fire Fire” follows the ordinary yet extraordinary Juliette, during a scout summer camp. The 17-year-old girl has just finished school and aspires to become a midwife. But she is much more than that. On social media where she has more than 40,000 followers, “Junniverse” is known as a “fire-talker” a gift she inherited from her grandmother.

“I grew up in Jura, a rural region of Switzerland where the tradition of healers is very strong, and the topic always intrigued me,” Jeanbourquin explains to Variety. “I wanted to tell the story of these ‘wizards’ by going against the stereotypical vision we might have of them. That’s how I came to tell the ordinary story of a teenager with an extraordinary gift.”

“After some years of research on the subject, Juliette appeared in my TikTok feed, and I immediately found in her the character I’d been dreaming of portraying all along. After we met, it was obvious that I had to accompany her during that pivotal summer after high school. I chose to follow my intuition and captured the coming-of-age story of a modern witch.”

For Jeanbourquin, the film “is also the portrait of a certain generation: their relationship to faith and beliefs, their need to make sense of a world that they might perceive as disenchanting, and their need to connect with others through social media.”

To be a true “fly on the wall” and get fully-immersed in Juliette’s daily life, Janbourquin followed her and a group of youngsters at a scout summer camp. “With my small crew, we only had two weeks to create a film,” she recalls. “It was important for me to find a good balance between leaving them alone, free to have their own experiences, and filming. The challenge was to listen to their needs, readjusting every day, while keeping an eye on the film to be made.”

The filmmaker hired experienced cinematographer Augustin Losserand to capture the fleeting summer moments and Juliette’s healing talents. “I think Augustin has a gift for playing with reality and natural light to bring magic to his images. This quest for magic was our watchword throughout the process,” Jeanbourquin says.

The film was co-produced by public broadcaster RTS (“they are true champions of the documentary form, willing to take risks on emerging directors,” says Zanon), with support from the Federal Office for Culture, Cinéforom and the Loterie Romande, with additional grants from the SSA, Suissimage and MEDIA Desk Switzerland.

Nyon-born Zanon is looking forward to showcasing her film at Visions du Réel, which fuelled her love for film and filmmaking. “Premiering a film here definitely feels special – if only to have my parents see what it is I do for a living!,” quips the producer.

The 55th Visions du Réel runs April 12-21.

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