At Cannes, two creatives highlight the ongoing refugee crisis in just 60 seconds

By Sanjana Ray|16th Aug 2016
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We’ve often been told that great ideas do not happen overnight. But like anything else in this world, there are some invigorating exceptions to the rule. In this case, it came in the form of one of the most brilliant ads of our time created by two young Frenchmen, Gautier Fage and Julien Bon.

Representing France in the ‘Young Lions Competition’ at Cannes that took place last month, the two started an agency just a year ago called Romance. The rules of the competition stated that all teams are to be briefed by a non-profit during the festival, following which they are given 48 hours to come up with an idea, shoot original footage with the camera provided by the organisers and edit this footage into a 60-second film. The films would then be presented to a jury consisting of legends in the creative field.

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This year’s theme was kept in line with the United Nations’ ‘Sustainable Development Goals Initiative’. Deciding to tackle one of the most sensitive and pertinent crises of our current times, the French duo decided to base their film around the refugee crisis that has been plaguing the Western world since the past year.

The one-minute video is guaranteed to have you teary-eyed and sporting a heavy heart by the end of it. Journeying through the eyes of the narrator, it becomes apparent within seconds that he is helpless, outcast and homeless. He begs for food and shelter only to have the door shut rudely and firmly in his face. After being abused, beaten, chased and rejected, he settles for a half-eaten apple he finds in the trash. Then, he tries to keep warm by building a fire at the corner of the road. The final scene shows him running from the police and being beaten by a local. The film sums up its narrative with a single hard-hitting line: “If this is what they came for, imagine what they came from.” A quick line about the refugee crisis follows, asking people to change their attitude towards the refugees and act to help them. When the United Nations program logo signals the end of the film, the audience is left wishing they knew what happened to the pitiful narrator.

It is almost impossible to believe that such a deep, moving film was made it just 48 hours. ‘Adweek’ managed to get in touch with Gautier and Julien to ask them how they managed to pull it off.

The two revealed that they got the idea after several frustrating brainstorming moments that happened over the two days. They did have a slight edge over the other contestants, with the festival being held in their homeland, thus making communication with locals that much simpler. But, it was still their first time at Cannes, and the two encountered their fair share of problems during the shoot.

Although they had planned to use a simple concept in their film, a week prior to the festival, they were struck with an extraordinarily new concept. But though innovative, this concept took twice the amount of work to execute. Like any good media professional, they understood the value of a powerful tagline. “The tagline came straight out of the insight we had found. If you think about what refugees have to go through when they arrive in Europe, it's impossible to keep believing that they're here to ‘take advantage of the system’. So clearly, it was the easiest part for us to find. The rest was made of sweat, tears and GoPro,” they told Adweek.

The film is definitely going to steer the wheel in favour of this French-duo. They have already been praised by legends like Joe Alexander, Marcello Serpa, Rob Reilly and their personal favourite – Kevin Jones from ‘CP+B’, who made their fan-boy dreams come true by publicly acknowledging their work.

The fact that they brilliantly covered one of the most troubling issues of the modern world in just 60 seconds is something worth noting. The amount of emotion they managed to evoke through a concept they forged in just 48 hours goes to show that the books were wrong – some of the greatest ideas can, indeed, be created overnight.

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