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Filmmaker Annick Blanc speaks on power dynamics and dread in the Far North for her film, HUNTING DAZE

BY MO MOSHATY, March 10, 2024

A Journey Through Tempestuous Territory, where Power, Sexuality, and Gender Collide with Terror.

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MM:  Can you share what experiences in your life inspired or motivated you to write a film that explores themes of sensuality, power dynamics, and hallucinations in such a distinctive setting?

 

Annick Blanc - Writer/Director: I wanted to highlight how we often carry on with our daily lives, enjoying the good moments and partying, while the world seems to crumble around us. As individuals, we sometimes feel powerless to change anything or are too caught up in our own lives—work, family, chores—to act. We tell ourselves we'll address it tomorrow, or that the government or others will take care of the problem. We hide behind excuses while everything burns.

I believe this happens partly because when we're not accustomed to crisis or live in too much comfort, we lose touch with our survival instinct, empathy, and basic human reflexes. We become incapable of acting when crisis strikes.

That's why I envisioned a strong female character, someone with nothing to lose, challenging the establishment—a group of wealthy white men—and tearing it down. I wanted to show that preserving our morals, empathy, and humanity, and having the will to enact change, are paramount.

But I wanted to convey this message subtly, through the guise of a tale, a fable, a dream. I wanted the audience to experience the message organically as the film unfolds, rather than have it told or hammered into them. I believe this approach allows the message to truly resonate, planting a seed within the audience without them realizing it. That's why I decided to blend multiple genres—humor, thriller, psychological horror—to keep viewers engaged and entertained, allowing them to feel and experience the message rather than simply think about it.

MM: Nina begins the film in dire straits fully dependent on the men, as we go on we see she's the only voice of reason as the men seem to role-play their way to dominance. Can you discuss the nuances of developing Nina's character and the relationships she forms with the men?

AB:  In Hunting Daze, things are never quite what they seem; the dynamics are always shifting. Take the scene where Nina asks to be hosted by the group—it starts with her seeking their acceptance but ends with them pleading for her to stay. Nina has a knack for owning the situation and manipulating the room to her advantage. She knows when to play the victim and when to assert herself as a strong, tough woman.

With the #metoo movement, which I wholeheartedly support, we've seen a lot of portrayals of women as victims (albeit strong ones). But I wanted to depict a wise woman standing up to a group of intimidating men with sheer strength. I wanted to show that she's not afraid and can turn their manipulation tactics against them.

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MM: How did the environment's overall atmosphere influence the visual storytelling and Nina's journey?

 

AB: I chose to set the story in the farthest reaches of Quebec's North. Having been there myself, I was struck by the eerie mix of tranquility and unease. In such remote areas, there are so few people—it's serene and breathtakingly beautiful, with a meditative quality. But at the same time, it's unnerving; if something were to happen, you'd be isolated, far from any help. It's a deeply contradictory feeling.

I wanted nature to dominate the film—to feel omnipresent, larger, and more powerful than the characters. I wanted it to seem infinite and mystical, adding to the dreamy yet ominous atmosphere.

We scouted extensively and found a unique location on a kind woman's property. The landscape was adorned with lichens and coniferous trees, giving it the feel of the deep north. Yet, it was nestled in the Laurentides, surrounded by typical Laurentian scenery.

MM:  You've really turned some common tropes on their head in this film, could you expand on why?

AB:  In the movie, I intentionally used generalized tropes—like the bros, the prostitute, the stranger without papers. These are common throughout horror films. 

But I wanted to subvert these archetypes to highlight the strength of the historically marginalized. Take Dudos, for example. Despite being injured, he exudes a strength that surpasses the group of men. He's unafraid, facing his destiny with understanding and acceptance. In a way, he transcends mere humanity; he could represent something more, like a deity or nature itself, testing the men. By the end, we sense that he's more than just a man.

MM: Sensuality often involves visual and symbolic elements. I noticed, as Nina begins to acclimate with the group, the beautifully sly presence of the egg (fertility) and a gun (male dominance) as symbols. Can you discuss any other specific symbolism or imagery used in the film to enhance the sensual aspects of the story?

AB:  Absolutely! Those details are spot on. The way Nina is dressed at the start—fake lashes, bold pink nails—it's intriguing to see them juxtaposed against the natural backdrop of the woods, holding a gun. The contrast is striking.

And I carried that contrast into the way I filmed as well—using close-ups, focusing on lips, eyes, and body details. Slow-motion shots let the body move through nature at its own pace, creating a sense of intimacy. Sound design plays a crucial role too, enveloping the audience in a warm, immersive atmosphere.

Metaphorically, I wanted to convey more than just sensuality; I wanted to explore themes of womanhood through Nina's challenges. She's manipulated, gaslighted, confined, persecuted, and labeled as a witch or a whore—tactics still used to control women today. These are struggles she faces throughout the film, symbolizing the broader issues women confront in society.

MM: Nina's hallucinations throughout the film wonderfully enhance her journey with and without the men. Whilst crafting the story, were the hallucinations there from the start, or something that was born midway?

A:  Yes, I always like to incorporate dreams/hallucinations in my films. It is such a great opportunity to push forward the cinematic possibility of film.

I also like the concept that the flicker effect of the film (film frames and black) participates in creating a sort of hypnotic effect for the audience. By using dreamlike sequences, and enveloping enchanting aesthetic and soundscape, I like to push further this hypnotic state! I think that way you speak directly to the subconscious and heart of the viewer and your message can better and deeper reach them. 
 

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MM: Given your incredible exploration of power dynamics in the film, did you face any pushback or challenges, whether from collaborators, stakeholders, or audiences, regarding the portrayal of gender dynamics and power relationships?

AB: I've made a deliberate choice to push my characters to their limits, portraying shocking and intense moments that even I found difficult to watch or film. I believe it's crucial to depict these experiences so we can acknowledge them, open up discussions, and prompt the audience to reflect on themselves.

MM: The industry is still challenged in giving more women the chance to be behind the lens. What advice would you give woman-identifying creatives struggling to find support in this age?

AB: Never give up on yourself! Believe in your abilities, even when faced with doubt. Remember, all those boys' clubs out there? They believe in themselves without a second thought. And guess what? With your doubts, you're actually better, wiser, and stronger than them. Embrace your doubts, confront them head-on, and seek out your answers. Once you've made a decision, stick to it. Don't look back—forge ahead with confidence and conviction. 

About HUNTING DAZE - 

Nina, a tempestuous young, woman joins a group of hunters in a remote cabin. A mysterious stranger's arrival disrupts her newfound place in their male micro-society.

Starring: Nahéma Ricci, Marc Beaupré, Maxime Genois, Alexandre Landry, Frédéric Millaire-Zouvi, Bruno Marcil, Noubi Ndiaye

Written and Directed by Annick Blanc

Produced by Annick Blanc, Maria Gracia Turgeon

Sound Department: Samuel Gagnon-Thibodeau

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Mo Moshaty is a horror writer, lecturer and producer. As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and life long horror fan, Mo has lectured with Prairie View A&M Film & TV Program as a Keynote, BAFSS Horror Studies Sig  and The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Mo has partnered with horror giant, Shudder Channel, to co-produce the 13 Minutes of Horror Film Festival 2021 and 2022 with Nyx Horror Collective and her literary work "Love the Sinner" was published with Brigid's Gate Press in July of 2023 and her two volume collection, "Clairviolence: Tales of Tarot and Torment Vol. One and Two" will be published with Spooky House Press in the Spring of 2024

Mo is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of NightTide Magazine

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