It is the documentary that Nils Caneele feeds on. By creating connections and giving a voice to those who don’t have one.
Innu Portrait gave the floor to an elder who has always lived in the forest, Des pas made us aware of the importance of dance as a means of expression, another addressed addiction. We also owe him Urbart, a culture magazine edited by Jay de Temple. Then “Encré dans la peau” immersed us in the world of tattoo artists. With Underground Peoples we meet communities that have settled underground, in caves, tunnels or bunkers in Australia as well as in Spain or Kansas, Tunisia, Colombia and France. Some to have more freedom, others because they foresee the worst. Beautiful people living on the fringes in unusual places.
Nils Caneele Photo provided by TV5
What do the people you met on this show have in common?
The relationship to refuge, to Mother Earth. Some want to protect themselves from an uncertain future or the weather, others want to escape from society. It’s a way of hiding. For others it is for ecological reasons. Everyone has their own way of approaching coexistence. There is organization and solidarity. Each episode is like a unique documentary and I’m very proud that we don’t repeat ourselves thanks to the variety of backgrounds.
The actor Jean-Simon Leduc provides entertainment. It was his first experience. Why was he the perfect candidate?
Jean-Simon is very gentle. He is there to speak. It wasn’t his intention to be an animator, but he jumped at the opportunity for the human experience. He’s literally sunken and not just there to ask questions and leave after the interviews. He actually settles there, sleeps there. I think this approach has opened more doors. He is authentic, attentive, sensitive.
People who live on the fringes usually don’t want to be in the eye of the camera. How did you gain their trust?
There is a lot of research work. There is a lot of information to confirm as it is a very alternative way of life that may differ from what you read about it. Then we will see them without a camera to make links. We are a small team. We don’t want them to feel the stress of making good sequences. It often happens that the camera is not turned on. We don’t just want to be there in a utilitarian way. And we’re not here to paint a different picture of what they are.
Was that the biggest challenge?
We shot in places where there was no light or sound. We spent six hours walking through galleries where no one had been before. We shot in tight spots where we had to crawl with the gear and make sure we had enough batteries with us. You can’t be claustrophobic. The sound level was the opposite of a limitation as there was no parasitic sound. We were alone with our thoughts and our characters.
Did you feel that living underground was a risk?
The price of freedom is risk. There is great pride in the people who tamed this place. The place becomes the identity. They are inhabitants of the earth. When you think of caves, you have something primitive, but also very futuristic. In the Dominican Republic, the tunnels are rudimentary. The danger is very great. We shot under bridges in Colombia, and people played the lottery for gems in Australia. In big cities, underground passages become places of refuge for drug addicts or people in great need. Elsewhere, like in Spain, these are very organized societies that have a vision of the world, hope and a power of persuasion. Time disappears underground. It’s comforting to be cut off from the world.
► underground peoples, Fridays at 9 p.m. on TV5 and catch-up date on tv5unis.ca