Interview with Filmmaker Raval Alviarez (LE SELECT)

LE SELECT, 10min., Canada
Directed by Raval Alviarez
Le Sélect Bistro opened its doors on Queen St. W. in 1977. It became a community center that many residents of the city would flock to night after night in search of an experience unlike any other. Owners Frédéric and Jean-Jacques helped propel the careers of Canada’s most talented culinary workers such as Matty Matheson. Working closely together, the owners and their 80+ employees sought to deliver a soul to the heart of the city of Toronto. By touching the lives of every customer, the bistro became a landmark for the city. Unfortunately, Toronto quickly began its rise of urbanization. And 45 years later, they were forced to sell the restaurant and abandon their most cherished memories..

Get to know filmmaker Raval Alviarez:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

“Food is so much more than just what we eat, and restaurants are so much more than places to eat—they’re community centres. And our city of Toronto is at a very important crossroads right now when it comes to protecting and preserving those businesses. When making a documentary, I was taught that we ought to make something that audiences need to hear and see right now. And I believed that the residents of our city deserved to see what we risk losing when these small businesses are forced out of our communities.”

2. How long did it take you to make this film?

“I began the conception of the idea in January 2022, and we submitted our film to this festival in January 2023. While it might have seemed like a year to complete the film, the reality of it all was that we had a very condensed schedule. While the idea was formed in early 2022, we didn’t go to shoot until October, and that shooting lasted only 4 days, at which point we had a little more than a month to turn out the best possible edit. The restaurant re-opened over the summer which was a relief, as it allowed us to shoot there in the fall, otherwise the lengthy timeline could have worked against us!”

3. How would you describe the film in two words?

“Bittersweet, Important.”

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing the film?

“When we got to the editing room, we had over 500 minutes of video shot, and the narrative was really all over the place. To be able to piece together the core of the story in 10 minutes was the biggest challenge we faced. We went through so many versions of the film before settling on the final narrative arch. Albert Ponzo, a chef featured in the film took us to his farm in Prince Edward County, where he does phenomenal work, and did a whole tour with us. None of that ended up in the film, because it didn’t fit the story all too well, and that’s crazy to me. At the end of the day, our aim was to show people what we risk losing when these businesses are forced to close, and I think we really delivered on that front.”

5. What were your initial reactions upon seeing the video of audiences talking about your film?

“It was incredible. The best part of this process so far. This is why we make movies to show them to people and to reach the widest audience we can. To see everyday people react to and respond to our film was the most rewarding part of the process. It helps you know what parts of the film really landed and resonated with people. I was really happy to have received it.”

6. When did you realize you wanted to make films?

“I was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. That is a nation of storytellers. Whether it was my grandfather or my uncle or my mom, everyone was always telling stories to us as kids and now. As a child that way of engaging with the world was deeply rooted in me. I think it was because stories are a tool for helping us all learn to grow empathy for one another and our shared experiences. That became my goal, to help us all grow our understanding of one another.”

7. What film have you seen most in your life?

“I think I’ve watched Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999) the most times. It’s probably my favourite film. It’s just the best reminder that we have to tell our stories and we have to tell them because they’re important to people, not just us, but everyone who watches them as well. It’s also a reminder that all filmmaking elements should always service the story and that we’re all working towards helping each other learn a greater truth.”

8. What other elements can this festival and others implement to help you as a filmmaker?

“Other festivals ought to give filmmakers more ways of interacting with those who’ve seen their film, as you have! Beyond that, I think there needs to be greater transparency across the industry on how films are viewed and judged by festivals, as many filmmakers are often just thrown into competition without much awareness as to how their film may be judged.”

9. What was your experience with Film Freeway?

“I think I’m constantly surprised by how intuitive everything is with that website. It’s so seamlessly integrated and the fact that everyone can create the same project page gives us all a level playing field to submit our films. It also is very user-friendly and it was one less headache to worry about in post-production.”

10. What is your favourite meal?

“Not very poetic but I would have to say Empanadas. I love all South American food a lot and most of that is because of the fact that I can’t really make it authentically myself in Canada as we lack the same fresh ingredients. Really though, the best meals are the ones you make yourself!”

11. What is next for you?

“Currently I’m working on editing my next Short Film also produced by Humber. It’s a Comedy-Horror being filmed in a studio with a bunch of talented individuals. I think I want to solidify my future in editing, as I believe it’s where the story is told. None of that could be more true than for this documentary, where the entire story was really delivered in the process of editing. I’m looking forward to continuing that work!”


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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