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Estonia meets France at Switzerland film festival

LOCARNO--Switzerland French actress Jeanne Moreau lights up the big screen at the Locarno Film Festival Saturday in a film inspired by a story of friendship between two Estonian women in Paris.

Estonian filmmaker Ilmar Raag based “An Estonian in Paris” on the story of his mother, who came to the French capital in the 1990s to look after a suicidal woman.

Raag explained: “I was studying in Paris at the time and I heard about an elderly Estonian women living there who had made two suicide attempts. Someone needed to be found to look after her and I thought of my mother.”

Once in Paris, his mother, Anne, found her freedom and ended up remarrying at the age of 56, “happy like never before,” Raag said.

Some 300 Estonians lived in Paris in the 1990s — now the population numbers around 1,000 and includes a large number of artists of all kinds.

“Serious Estonians leave for the U.S., Canada and Germany, where they can earn a lot of money. Artists come to Paris,” said Raag.

The now 84-year-old Moreau takes on the role of the suicidal Frida, once a “free spirit” herself, while Anne is played by Laine Magi.

Working with Moreau was something of a learning curve for Raag, he said.

“Filming with Jeanne Moreau wasn't easy. She is not just an actress, she also read the scripts before filming and suggested changes the next day,” he explained.

“In general they were good comments and I took them into account.”

Saturday's screening will also showcase “Mobile Home,” the first feature film by young Belgian director Francois Pirot, pitched as the “first nonmoving road trip movie in cinematic history.”

In the film, childhood friends Simon and Julien drop everything to go and tour the world by camping car. But Julien meets Valerie and no longer wants to be on the road, leaving Simon to travel solo.

“I wanted to tell a story that is almost out of date nowadays, that of two slightly immature thirtysomethings,” said Pirot.

“Simon and Julien do the trip in their heads, as soon as they decide to go away,” said actor Arthur Dupont, who plays Simon and is a friend in real life of the actor that plays Julien, Guillaume Gouix.

Both films have been selected for the festival's international competition and are vying, along with 17 others, for the prized Golden Leopard.

The festival runs until Aug. 11.

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