Rodeo director Lola Quivoron in conversation with Kelman Duran
Lola Quivoron grew up watching dirt bikes roar across the streets from their window. As a student at film school La Fémis, their obsession with motocross subculture only revved louder, more passionately. Eager to find a way of escaping, Quivoron leaped over the school fences and contacted the leader of a dirt bike gang in the suburbs of Paris, “just to have a look”.
Having “a look”, it turns out, would drive a seven-year-long friendship with this community of dirt bikers – one which would blossom into Quivoron’s sweat-and-metal debut feature film, Rodeo. “I never gave up this feeling of being with them. I was astonished: one road, with a lot of riders, expressing themselves like on a stage,” Quivoron says, recalling the theatrical image. “It was poetic, but also a big physical vibration: the oil, the smell, the noises.”
Rodeo follows the story of Julia (Julie Ledru), a motorcycle thief attempting to infiltrate her way into an all-male dirt bike gang. It is a cinematic experience all about pace, sound and rhythm – and the way they manifest in your body. Scored by Dominican producer Kelman Duran, who mostly discussed his ideas with Quivoron on Zoom, Rodeo’s sonic universe is as important to its storytelling as the gritty images on screen. Returning to that virtual space of collaboration, Quivoron and Duran hit rewind on Rodeo, tracing moments of synergy in creating the film’s world through music.
Crack: How did you both come across each other’s work, and what made you excited to collaborate on Rodeo?
Lola Quivoron: I have a friend, Rafael Torres Calderón, who is the editor of Rodeo. We spent a lot of time together in this editing room listening to music. One day he put on a song by Kelman, and since then, I was obsessed with Kelman’s music. I created a playlist for Rodeo, and inside of it was [Kelman’s] Moon Cycles. I wanted music that can open up a spiritual atmosphere: really disruptive, really strange. The way he works with voices, to break the standard structure of the tracks, to slow down the musical rhythm of reggaeton, for example – it was obvious that this was an evocation of [Julia], because my character is haunted by voices. The music of Kelman really fits the mythology of Rodeo.
Kelman Duran: Thank you for saying that, Lola.
LQ: And then we met on Zoom. We had to translate the script into English, but it was too long. So we just talked a lot about the movie and Kelman sent us several tracks. I remember, we were in the editing room – it was at night, the winter had just begun, and Paris was dark. And we listened to these tracks. There were maybe 15 or 17 tracks. Raphael and I were super surprised that Kelman gave us this big treasure that helped us to find a rhythm for a lot of sequences.
KD: It was lockdown in Berlin, so I stayed in a room and just asked myself, ‘Well, how can I find an instrument that sounds like a bike?’ It took me a couple of weeks to get into it. I had to get a tuba so it could sound like the bottom of an engine. The tonality on bikes and the harmonics are quite different from real instruments. At first, I thought I was in over my head because I’ve never done a film. And this film looked amazing; I was like, ‘I don’t want to fuck this up.’ But it’s easy when someone gives you direction, and Lola was quite clear about what they wanted.
© Jean Charles Couty
LQ: I think you directed a documentary, right? When you were at CalArts?
KD: Yeah, I used to do film, but I never really made music for it. CalArts used to be like, “You’re a filmmaker, not a musician.”
LQ: But your songs were so cinematographic, so sensual, and so concrete at the same time. You mix it up, twist it and make it slower. I was really lucky because during the editing process, I had the chance to listen to one of your sets in Montreuil, in Paris. It was like entering a world unknown and magical. I was astonished by this physical meeting with Kelman’s sounds. It was a beautiful set. For me, music in films has to give a little bit of the subconscious of the film. Sounds, they’re like ghosts – not material at all.
KD: Not only are you an exceptional filmmaker, but I like that you’re vulnerable enough to explore that. After your film, people asked me, ‘Oh, could you do my next film?’ A lot of the time they just wanted music for the mood. Like, “This is a sad part, so make sad music.” You know what I mean? Which I don’t mind – I understand that musicians are for hire sometimes. But I felt like, working with you, it was more about trying to figure out this deeper, even spiritual [side].
Lola Quivoron © Antonia Buresi
LQ: I listened to your Corpo Sujeito remix a lot during the writing process. My girlfriend speaks Portuguese, so I asked her to translate the lyrics. And it was about my character [Julia]! The lyrics of this track are so queer: how to undefine the body, and how to be at the crossroad of genders. I thought it was a kind of miracle for me, to meet this track and to say, “OK, maybe we can ask Kelman if we could put it in the score of the film.” This is the first song that we hear in Rodeo. It’s a portrait of Julia.
LQ: Kelman offered us all the layers of each track. It was like entering into your mind! It’s not about putting a sad sound because it’s a sad sequence, but how the music could follow the vibe of the character.
KD: It’s nice to hear you talk about it, Lola. I haven’t seen you on a Q&A.
LQ: Because you didn’t come to LA to see the movie!
KD: [Lola] sent me a blurb. I also knew that Lola was at CalArts for a semester, so I asked people if they knew her. And everyone was like, “Oh yeah, she’s down,” which in America means, um, you’re down.
LQ: I get it.
© Antonia Buresi
KD: I don’t know Lola that well, but I feel like there is part of the [Julia] character that represents Lola. The fierceness, this drive. This attitude of, ‘I know that I don’t belong here, but I want to be here, and these people are going to like me.’ As a cis man, I don’t have that challenge. I thought that was quite admirable.
LQ: For me, working with Kelman was to let him be free to find a way of creating a link between Rodeo’s universe and his universe. When he sent us this album, we decided to work with this beautiful basis. I wanted Kelman to do what he loves to do: to slow down. To build this space outside of the speed and violence of the world. We were really attentive to each other as artists – I really loved this collaboration.