INTERVIEW: CUB Director Jonas Govaerts Earns His Feature Film Merit Badge

One of the most exciting aspects of the Midnight Madness program is the the emergence of new cinematic voices and talent from around the world. A film and director to look out for this year is Cub directed by Jonas Govaerts. After directing several short films, Cub marks Jonas' first feature film and the first horror film produced in Flanders. I recently had the opportunity to speak with him. -- Robert A. Mitchell 

Using one or two sentences can you tell me what the basic story for Cub is? 
Cub is the story of a summer scout camp gone horribly wrong, seen through the eyes of Sam, our twelve year old protagonist. 
Where did the idea come from? Were you, yourself a Cub Scout?
 I've been jotting down loose ideas for this story since I was a cub scout myself. I had some wonderful leaders back then, who introduced me to the world of underground comics, horror movies and alternative music; it seemed only fitting I would set my first film at a scout camp, since that's where my imagination was first triggered. My scout totem is Imaginative Toucan, by the way--no lie! 
You have made several short films. Cub is your first feature length film. How was that transition? What were some of the difficult aspects of production you had to overcome? 
All of my shorts were based on existing short stories I loved: at least there I had the security of a decent script. On Cub, which I co-wrote, I was often second-guessing myself: do we need really this scene? What am I trying to say here? Also, the ambition and scope of the film far exceeded anything I had done in my earlier work. Luckily, I had my movie family around me: most of the crew have been with me since my first short, Mobius. I actually went to film school with my cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis (Michael R. Roskam's Bullhead & The Drop, John Hillcoat's upcoming Triple Nine): he flunked after the first year, while I needed six years to finish school! 
There is that old adage in show business, never work with kids or animals. Obviously your film is centered around a story featuring kids. How difficult was the casting to find the kids to play the characters? What was it like to work with these young actors? 
If I hadn't accidentally seen Maurice Luijten, who plays Sam, in the music video The Gift by Ralf Demesmaeker, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. He really was a gift from the movie gods. He looked like a young River Phoenix or something - that same effortless charisma. Once Sam was in place, it was really a matter of mixing and matching: for the other cubs, we saw a couple of hundred kids, and we tweaked the parts to fit their personalities, specific talents and looks. We didn't find Gill Eeckelaert,
who plays the Masked Feral Child, until very late in the game: in his audition tape, you can really see my face going from absolute exhaustion to huge relief!...Animals, though, are another matter entirely. The most grueling part of the shoot involved a dog - of course, I had to pick the dumbest breed in existence. Safe to say, I'm in no big hurry to work with dogs again - though I doubt I'll get offered many animal movies after Cub comes out! 
What would you say to folks looking at the film selection of why they should see Cub? 
As a life-long horror fan, I've been disappointed with the direction the genre has taken lately, at least in main stream cinema: loud bangs, cheap CGI, grubby shaky-cam, cardboard characters... It's just not my thing. With Cub, I've tried to bring back those elements I miss most in modern horror: a decent build-up, some humor to contrast with the violence, a certain visual poetry, characters you can actually relate to... Oh, and a cool, Carpenter-style title font, of course!

CUB screening times:
Wed., Sept. 10th, 11:59 PM, RYERSON
Thu., Sept. 11th, 8:30 PM, SCOTIABANK 8
Sat., Sept. 13th, 12:30 PM, SCOTIABANK 13

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