Mercenaire the movie
Who doesn’t know Laurent Pakihivatau ? The Wallisian , the iconic prop-forward in French rugby who wore the colours of Brive , Lyon and Bourg-en-Bresse ended his professional career in 2011. Nicknamed by all his friends , « Paki » he started a new career with his wife at a canoeing-kayaking centre in the Ain. From October 5th he stars in ‘Mercenary’ ( Mercenaire in French), the wonderful film directed by Sacha Wolff .
This gem of a film tells the story of Soane, a young Wallisian who defies paternal authority by leaving for Metropolitan France to play rugby. Uprooted from his land and his people the young prop-forward arrives at the other end of the world and learns how to become a man . He ,the New Caledonian tries to find his place in Metropolitan France but is taken by everyone for a foreigner.
Laurent Pakihivatau who plays the role of an agent whose morals are dubious , was kind enough to talk to us about his experience and the young man’s story that seems very similar to his own. Meeting….
Mathilde Lacrouts : How did you meet Sacha Wolff ? What was your reaction when he asked you to act in his first feature film ?
Laurent Pakihivatau : When we first met I was still playing for Lyon. It was Antoine Nicoud, a mutual friend who introduced us. Sacha told me about his project which at the beginning focused more on Tongans, Fijians and Samoans than on Wallisians . Then I told him about my story and the French islands. And so the screenplay changed. Sacha came to my island on several occasions. He scouted for locations. I introduced him to my family and friends. After that the casting could start .
Mathilde Lacrouts . In the film you play the role of an agent whose morals are very dubious indeed . This role wasn’t too hard was it?
Laurent Pakihivatau . Yes of-course it was . It’s not at all in my nature to be nasty. It’s not the image I want to show my children. In fact they were shocked when they saw me like that in the film. You may not realize it when you look at the film that it was a very difficult role to play .. I put a lot of work into it. Physically and mentally it was very demanding. It’s a bit like rugby. It takes a lot of rigour and strength.
Mathilde Lacrouts : In the film the main character, Soane, portrays the role of a young Wallisian rugby player who defies parental authority to come and play in France. Were you moved by this character?
Laurent Pakihivatau . Soane’s role is like the story of a lot of expatriate players. Uprooting is more or less my story . I was deeply affected by this character and it was very hard for me to control my emotions. I’m not the sensitive type but I’ve never felt so emotional when watching a film.
Mathilde Lacrouts . What is similar about your story and Soane’s ?
Laurent Pakihivatau . Like Soane , I arrived in France at the age of 19. I landed at INSEP (National Institute of Sport and Physical Education )in Paris and did athleticism. My father was against my playing rugby. He wanted me to be a boxer. For him rugby was too rough.. When I decided to take up this sport I was going against his wishes. If I’d admitted it earlier I think I’d have got a good thrashing. Well, the story of the father at the end of the film is similar to mine.
Mathilde Lacrouts : Unfortunately this story reflects a lot of the feelings that many Wallisians have on arriving in Metropolitan France .What do you think ?
Laurent Pakihivatau. Yes .It is the case . But at least the good thing about the film is that it puts the spotlight on us . Often Wallisians are uprooted and rather introverted and it is difficult for them to fit in. I think that the Metropolitan French have a part to play in this too. They should be more communicative with us. When you discover Metropolitan France you get a real culture shock. The people are much more stressed , more distant. A lot of them don’t like to approach you . Maybe because of our extraordinary size or the colour of our skin. You can’t let that stop you. You need to get beyond the physical . Also a lot of people speak English to us .It hurts. We study the history of Marie-Antoinette at school and the World Wars just like the Metropolitan French . And they take us for English …. But no, we are French . French from the islands . That’s all. I’d like to thank Sacha Wolff for his film which I’m sure will change the way people think . French islanders are very proud.
Mathilde Lacrouts . And if you had to do it again ?
Laurent Pakihivatau : It was a very enriching experience. If the opportunity arises again I’ll accept it head first.( laughs)