Cannes 2022: Lua Michel, 9, the youngest star of the festival

EShe is in the middle of coloring when we meet her in a beach bar in Cannes. She must soon go back to Paris by TGV after two intense days of “world premiere”, “photocall” and “interviews”. Almond-shaped green eyes, parting in the middle and a black floral dress, Lua Michel is an actress. At nine years old, she is undoubtedly the youngest actress to hold the main role of a film presented at the Cannes Film Festival. In the funny and poignant family fresco Alma Viva, in competition at Critics’ Week and expected in theaters by the end of the year, she plays Salomé. A little girl haunted by the spirit of her grandmother who suddenly dies at her side. Sometimes intriguing, angry or sleepwalking, Lua Michel carries this film shot in a mountainous village which could be called “a funeral and a thousand hassles” and, beyond family dissensions, deals with the influence of witchcraft in Portugal.

Alma Viva focuses on the gaze of the child. Behind the camera, we find Lua’s mother, the Franco-Portuguese Cristèle Alves Meira, whose first feature film this is. “At the start, I really didn’t know that I was going to play there. Mom just asked me during the tests to run, to try to cry or to wake someone, “says the little girl, who worked like all minors in the cinema with a coach in charge of rehearsing the child, but also to watch over him. Her mother, a director, explains that she initially wanted Lua to help her choose the other characters. She was looking for an 11-year-old protagonist, not 7 years old like her daughter at the start of the project. She ended up realizing that Lua would be perfect for the role. “I made him pass hidden tests. I only talked to her about it when I was really sure I wanted to work with her,” says Cristèle Alves Meira.

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Having to hide or have people jump on me when they see me for an autograph or a photo, that’s not life!

Lua, who had already starred in two of her mother’s short films, including one shot at her home during confinement, agrees. “I said yes, because I knew she wouldn’t cut me in the editing as it has happened in other short films. There, I was the protagonist and therefore sure to appear, ”she smiles with a mischievous eye.

At the Cannes Film Festival, the young actress had to lend herself to the game of photo sessions and press relations. Not easy when you’re nine years old. The day before our interview, at midnight, when she couldn’t stand up anymore and was dying to go to sleep, someone recognized her and asked her to take a picture with her. “He was like, ‘Oh, it’s you! Oh, congrats on the movie!” I had to force myself to smile. It’s hard sometimes to always be happy and beautiful. »

Celebrity, this CM2 student does not want to hear about it. “I have everything but want to be known. Having to hide or have people jump on me when they see me for an autograph or a photo, that’s not life! I want to live my life as it comes. An astonishing lesson in maturity. “It’s reassuring that she has so much perspective. She’s not in some glamorous movie fantasy,” her mother said.

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“Little Witch”

A publicist comes to pick up Lua for another photo session and a mini-interview. She returns a few moments later: “I took the photo, but I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to. In Cannes, she saw nothing other than the film in which she plays. The other works in competition, Top Gun, Tom Cruise… The promotion of the film hardly left him time to taste glamour. His best memory of the festival? The one when, during an evening a bit plan-plan on the boat of the Arte chain docked in the port of Cannes, the young Ricardo suddenly put a Portuguese tube at full volume and she danced. “People who are a little chic have left, what were we laughing at! »

The filming ofAlma Viva lasted two months last summer in Portugal. Lua really enjoyed this experience in the village where her grandmother was born. Of course, there were those times when she had to redo and redo scenes until late in order for them to be perfect. But her filmmaker mother adapted to her, sometimes abandoning the text of the character to give her the freedom to improvise her emotions. “I especially like to play comedy with others. When you’re all alone, it’s more difficult,” breathes Lua. In one scene, she prepares herbal tea for her grandmother. “At home, mom never lets me take a pot of boiling water,” she laughs, before launching: “Did you see, mom, that I do it very well? »

The young actress loved playing this “little witch with a dark side. She dreams of playing a “real witch, one who makes potions with hours, bleach and currants.” “But it is not yet certain that she will pursue the cinema. ” I do not know. It will depend on whether I like the script and the story,” Lua replies. Nine years old, and already a seasoned professional of the 7and art.

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Cannes 2022: Lua Michel, 9, the youngest star of the festival

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