Q & A
With Director Patricia Chica
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
As a filmmaker, empowering stories that defy the status quo and lead the protagonist to self-realization inspire my own writing and creative process. If you add significant queer elements, strong unconventional characters, an enlightened message and a killer soundtrack, then I’m in!
On the set of Montréal Girls: Jasmina Parent (DÉSIRÉE), Patricia Chica (DIRECTOR) and Hakim Brahimi (RAMY).
Photo by Sophia Benalouane.
Why is telling this story so important to you, and why are you the best person to tell it?
MONTRÉAL GIRLS is a very personal story to me. It brings to light many aspects of my own coming-of-age story, growing up in a conservative family, while at the same time evolving within the underground scene in Montreal, a very exhilarating, and almost forbidden culture compared to my own.
This story is important to be told, especially in a landscape where cinema deserves even more diverse representation. This film gives the underserved audience member an opportunity to observe life from the point of view of an individual that resembles them, and at the same time, someone who is making their own choices in life, despite what society, culture, religion or family may prevent them from choosing.
I’m the best person to tell this story, not only because it borrows situations from my own personal life but also because my perspective as the child of immigrants yet a local insider of Montréal’s subcultures; allows me to authentically portray the characters in the film.
That’s why it was important for me to have the film in three languages-- English, Arabic and French – reflecting the rich diversity found within my own culture.
On the set of Montréal Girls: , Hakim Brahimi (RAMY), Patricia Chica (DIRECTOR) and Sana Asad (YAZ).
Photo by Sophia Benalouane.
Talk to us about the theme of your film and how you would like the audience to receive and/or interpret its message?
The theme of MONTRÉAL GIRLS is to follow your heart; to make the choices that better serve your higher purpose and to not pursue a person or a thing that doesn’t align with who you are. It’s a coming-of-age story about self-realization in its purest way.
On the set of Montréal Girls: The crew in action.
Photo by Walid Ghodbane.
What was the most unusual part about making this film?
MONTRÉAL GIRLS is the first feature film ever created with the Chi Energy method. The actors and every department's head were trained by me to use Chi Energy on set.
Chi Energy is a very unique creative process, that I have developed, which connects one’s energy centers with their intuition, mindset, language and body expression in order to expand their creative potential, as a performer or storyteller, and to reach their desired outcome faster.
Chi Energy allows us to change our reality through intentional behavior since how you are from within affects the people and environment around you. When creatives work on a project together, it is crucial to be aware of the energy we carry and how it can impact the entire group.
As a Chi Energy educator, it was my responsibility to bring that mindset to the entire team and to provide them with the necessary tools that would help them achieve their sole intentions, as well as the collective’s purpose.
My highest intention is for any creative person to learn these tactics, which derive from ancient knowledge and that serve modern applications to support our contemporary lives. It’s a new way of creating that will make our industry a much more conscious and evolved space.
Meditation sessions with the cast and some crew members of Montréal Girls at a Chi Energy workshop.
Photo by © Sharath Ravishankar.
Tell us about your lead actor Hakim Brahimi. What is special about him and why did you want to work with him? Tell us about collaborating with him.
I had a very particular image in mind for Ramy, the leading role. I visualized a charismatic Middle Eastern man in his early twenties with thick dark hair, deep eyes and a certain prudish naivete about him.
I auditioned hundreds of candidates across Canada – particularly from Quebec – Hollywood and even the Middle East. It wasn’t until I came across Hakim Brahimi’s profile on Instagram that I felt I was getting close.
During my 90-minute audition with him, the takes he did were very raw and showcased very little acting ability. Instead of giving up on him, I decided to sit him down and ask him questions about himself. He got very emotional when telling me about his home country, Algeria, and what he missed about it. That vulnerable moment with Hakim stood out to me. Rather than being stuck in his head by trying to impress me, he was very raw and honest with me. Although he had no previous acting experience, I knew I could do something great with him because I was able to get to the depth of his emotions.
I remember telling Hakim “Listen, if I take a gamble casting you as the leading role in a feature film without any acting experience, you have to commit to putting in the hours of preparation with me. Are you ready to do that?” and he answered: “I have a full-time job at a bank.”, so I replied: “Well, you have to be available and make the film a priority if I cast you”.
A few days later he called and told me, “Hey, I just quit my job, when do we start?”.
Director and Chi Energy coach training actor Hakim Brahimi.
Photo by Sophia Benalouane.
For the following year, I designed a rigorous training program with Chi Energy, consisting of new weekly lessons and exercises for both Hakim and Jasmina Parent, the leading actress playing Désirée. Some weeks, we trained for up to 15 hours, tapping into each chakra, every limiting belief, and releasing any blockages in the mind or nervous system.
We worked on all the aspects of their energetic alignment (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) so that they could reach and even surpass their highest potential.
We explored real-life situations and emotions that usually trigger us, in order to release that energy and foster the creation of the character and performance with a blank slate.
Chi Energy allowed them to just be in the present moment by honoring the different qualities that performance demands and letting go of any expectations to allow those connections to happen organically. By surrendering to the process and trusting their intuition and body, it brought them instinctual validation that enhanced their performance.
I aspire to create an environment that fosters absolute trust between the actors and myself as the director. Through this process, that level of surrender was created to the point where I knew that between “action” and “cut”, the scene was theirs and there was nothing else I could have done at that point. All I could do was to send out my support, and it was incredible to witness the change and confidence they gained throughout.
Chi Energy training.
Photo by Géovanny Solis.
What is the one question journalists never ask you but that you are dying to answer? Go for it!
There is a short documentary called “CHI ENERGY - The Making Of Montréal Girls” directed by Noa Blanche Beschorner, a Concordia University film student, showing my process of directing the actors with Chi Energy, which should come out around the same time as the feature film.
To be continued.