Girl Powers

Fyzal Boulifa is a British filmmaker of Moroccan decent, who has made a number of shorts – including the BAFTA-nominated The Curse in 2012. He now directs his feature debut, Lynn + Lucy, starring newcomer Roxanne Scrimshaw and Nichola Burley as two young mothers whose friendship is tainted with tragedy.

ASFF: How did Lynn + Lucy get under way?
FB: I spent many years making short films and the gap from when I started trying to move into features to finishing Lynn + Lucy was really quite long. I had a lot of false starts and I was developing things that didn’t turn out. I was asking myself a lot: What should be my first feature? How do I want to present myself to the world? At some point I just got tired of this question. I was developing various projects…and Lynn + Lucy happened to be the one that got financing and moved the quickest.

ASFF: How would you characterise Lynn and Lucy’s relationship?
FB: I think they are friends. It’s like any kind of really long friendship, it becomes complicated, but I think it’s a real friendship. But Lynn’s tragedy…she’s looking for identity and she’s looking for self-esteem. And that opportunity comes in the tragedy of her best friend. This is how I’ve always thought of it.

ASFF: How did you find Roxanne Scrimshaw, whose never acted before, and plays Lynn?
FB: At the beginning of the process I was very open minded, looking at professional actresses and non professionals. But after meeting with some established actresses, I really felt that it had to be a non professional. So with a casting director, we were looking all over Essex and it was a very intense process, meeting a lot of women from these different types of small towns around Essex – Tilbury and Grays and Harlow and Basildon. So we were on the streets, meeting people – we went to community centres, schools, trying to meet as many people as possible. And we put out ads in the local papers, and Roxanne responded to the ad.

ASFF: To play Lucy, you cast the more established actress Nichola Burley. Why did you go for a professional opposite a newcomer?
FB: What we realised was the role of Lucy is quite particular because it’s much more extreme than the role of Lynn in terms of the acting. And she’s also off-screen more – she’s more mysterious in some ways. And what we realised is that needed the control of an actress.

ASFF: Before lockdown, when you were able to have Q&As, what were audience reactions?
FB: It’s quite a confrontational film in many ways. I think there’s a sense that people are still processing it, like even during the Q&As – they’re still kind of grappling with it. So I don’t know if I would call it debate, but there are certain questions that are coming up, like representation of the working class and also the idea of resolution. We screened in Zurich, and a woman in a Q&A was like, ‘I liked your film but I felt you missed an opportunity to make something educational.’ She wanted Lynn to kind of learn the error of her ways and change. But it provoked a kind of interesting discussion about why leave something open ended, why leave the audience with this kind of slight discomfort at the end of the film.

Lynn + Lucy is available to stream from 2 July. For more details, click here.

James Mottram