A mother and a son in the aftermath of a disappearance, facing to ghost of the missing on the long path towards resilience, from the banks of the River Rhône to the docks of Hamburg.
A story about remembering not just what has been lost, but also what remains.
One day, Pierre, a local newspaper photographer, doesn't come home. His wife Clara, a UN interpreter, soon realises that he has disappeared voluntarily, taking his mystery with him. She chooses to face this impossible grief alone while shielding their young son Justin from the painful reality.
11 years later, Justin, now a young man of 18 in search of identity, suddenly sees the past resurface, forcing him to overcome his own denial and grief in order to break free from his missing father.
An evening of March 2011, in Geneva PIERRE, a local press photographer, doesn’t come back home to his wife CLARA, an interpreter at the UN, and their little boy JUSTIN. The next morning, the bed is still empty. She finds out that he didn’t come to work the previous day. Worried, she reports his disappearance to the police.
Pierre’s car is found completely burned down on the banks of the river Rhône. No trace of him. The police find out that he withdrew a large sum of money on the day he disappeared. Everything indicates that he left voluntarily. Clara's whole world collapses under her feet. She doesn’t know how to tell the truth to Justin who asks where his father is.
She decides to conduct her own investigation. But the more she learns about him, the more his mystery deepens. Justin is convinced that his father is doing a big report far away. Fiction might be better than reality after all. As the spring goes by, life must go on for the mother and her son. But one evening, Clara receives an anonymous call that the police manage to retrace: it comes from a phone booth in Hamburg. A security camera shows a spectral figure. Clara has no doubt, it’s him. She leaves on the same day.
11 years later. Justin spends the summer between his friends, his job at the museum and his doubts towards the future. Clara rebuilt her life, she has a little girl now, ÉMILIE, with her new companion BRUNO. No one talks about Pierre in that house that they soon plan to leave. Justin struggles to find his way between this recomposed family and the shadow of his missing father.
In the cellar, he finds an old DV camera which he takes at a party to film his friends. There, he meets LÉA who’s been flirting with him for a while. By the bonfire, they watch the video he shot with the camera. Suddenly, the face of his father appears on the LCD screen. He has recorded over an old home movie. Profoundly moved by this vision, he opens up to Léa about the disappearance and his need to understand why his father left him.
Justin starts to dig into the past, finally confronting the silence of his mother who may not have told him everything. His quest will lead as far as Hamburg, following the tracks of the mysterious ELKE, an old colleague of Pierre, his last hope to uncover his secrets and the other life he was running after. A life lost on the way. Over there, the dreamy little boy, as well as the young man in search of emancipation, may finally break free from the ghost of their missing father.
My story is about absence, memory and resilience. Following the sudden voluntary disappearance of a man, I’m interested in those who stayed behind, the mother and the son confronted with an almost impossible grief. I wanna show how the missing progressively haunts their daily life and memory. Facing this brutal act, they each will have to fight denial and self-withdrawal, confronting themselves with the judgement of others, in order to return to the outside world. Through the chronicle of a disappearance, this story deals with the existential questions that the death of my father raised in me, by reinjecting them into fiction. How to film the absence? What remains of the missing for those who stay behind? How can you go on living and rebuild yourself when facing an impossible grief? How do we rethink the present under the light of the past, through memories, stories and images? Simply put, a movie about the importance of seeing not only what is lost, but also what is left.
When his father died in 2018, Léon and I talked at length about our relationship with our parents, their passion for their profession – I also come from a family of filmmakers – and how we coped with the fact that they were often absent during our youth. Little did I know at the time that one day these conversations would find expression in the form of a common film project.
Last year, we were able to obtain development funding from three major institutions in Switzerland, including the Federal Office of Culture. We want to be ready to apply for production in the first half of 2024. We're aiming for a budget of around 1.5 to 2 million euros for this first feature film. Such a budget could be entirely financed in Switzerland, but we would also like to examine the possibility of co-producing the project with France, Germany or Belgium. As a production company, we have already co-produced with Belgium, but also with the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
Born in Lausanne in 1990. After studying Arts at the University of Lausanne, Léon Yersin completed a Bachelor's degree in cinema at HEAD-Geneva. His diploma short Fair Divers (Miscellaneous) had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival in 2018. He is currently developing his first feature film, Ce Qui Reste (What Remains).
Born 1980 in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2001, David Fonjallaz co-founded the production company Lomotion together with Louis Mataré. He has been working full-time as a producer since 2013, after having previously worked mostly as director and editor. With this background, he is supervising the content development at Lomotion. He has since produced nine documentaries and three fiction feature films for cinema, which have been screened among others in Venice, Locarno, San Sebastian and IDFA.
I am a screenwriter from Lausanne, Switzerland. I worked mainly on some shorts and TV skits. I am currently a Master's student in Screenwriting at ECAL (School of Arts of Lausanne). I'm the co-writer of What Remains (Script Pool 2023). Besides that I am the co-founder and co-director of the VIFFF - Vevey International Funny Film Festival.