Dries Delputte gets up close for Holy Rosita  

Wannes Destoop’s Holy Rosita follows the upbeat Rosita, a woman eager to have children. Those who know her, however, believe she’s irresponsible as she can barely take care of herself. Dries Delputte served as cinematographer on the film. 

Delputte went to NARAFI film school in Brussels and graduated in 2001/2. “Then, I ended up in the light department pretty fast and started doing my first jobs,” says Delputte. “From film school I always wanted to be a cinematographer and that was my main attraction. I’ve done lots of video clips and shorts. I also shot Wannes short film, Swimsuit 46, which won a prize at Cannes. It won the Jury prize. It was amazing to be there on the red carpet with all the stars and I didn’t realise how important that was. While I was doing that I was working as a gaffer. I’ve done films with Ruben Impens and I’ve worked on some of Felix van Groeningen’s films. With a couple of friends, I also had a production company and our main activity was filming for sport brands, so we’ve done lots of portraits of skaters and snowboarders, so we travel the world and (these were mini docu series) make a day in the life portraits. That was mostly a two-three-man crew. I was director, cameraman and following edits also. That might have had an influence on my work and the way I look at natural light. Then I had a chance to work on shorts and features here in Belgium.” 


Delputte first met director Wannes Destoop on a shoot he did as a gaffer. “That was on a set with director Jakob Verbruggen,” adds Delputte. “Wannes and I really clicked, we had a similar sense of humour and were similar people. He was still in school then and he wanted someone to shoot his short film, so I proposed myself and that’s how we started shooting together. We later shot the series Albatross together and at that point he was already working on the script for Holy Rosita. I was involved already for a very long time and I had read several versions of the script. At a certain point, they decided to go for funding which was very difficult. They were hoping on funding from Belgium and film funds in Netherlands, but it was hard to receive that. They tried a couple of times, but that never worked out. Wannes decided then to just shoot even without the full budget. It was a shock for everybody, but that’s when the producers recalculated everything and instead of the 32 days that we initially had planned, we would only have 24.”

“We had a meeting with everyone and they were all unhappy, but we understood it was the right time for Wannes to make the movie, so we believed in that as well,” Delputte continues. “During the meeting, I wanted to know the strongest points for this move and Wannes said he really wanted to work with the actors, as it’s a really strong actor-driven film. Rosita is in every frame of the movie and I don’t think there is one scene (there are a lot of shots without her but not one scene or sequence) without her. I thought this would be impossible to shoot in just 24 days. So, we needed to make some drastic choices and we needed to create more time so that Wannes could work with the actors, especially as there were some young kids involved. We made an exercise to see how we could do it with minimal people and minimal gear, to allow more shooting days. Locations were also very important. We didn’t use any scouts, we did it all ourselves. Maybe we could get a couple of photos from our location manager who had a database, but we always revisited locations on a director scout. On the location scouts Wannes and I had always a compact film camera with us. With a roll of Kodak Gold film in it and already shot photo’s of the locations and how people were living there. That immediately gave us a specific look. We then knew if we could light the place and there were lots of locations. With the art director, we really needed places that were already 80 – 90% good, so we could swap a couple of props. Only Rosita’s apartment was an apartment that was empty and they repainted it and put in some furniture, but everything else was as they were. The camera package was also very small, I had to take out lenses and we eventually arrived at 29 days. So that was only a 3-day loss which was feasible. That was the way we approached it.”

As Delputte and Destoop had already collaborated on lots of projects together, it was easier for Delputte to understand Destoop’s process. “Holy Rosita is a social drama and one of the first things Wannes told me is that it can’t be a grey, dark and dull look because he wanted a lot of colour, which is the end result,” details Delputte. “He wanted it to be real and that kind of environment, but we avoided the grey, big buildings and we didn’t shoot during winter. That was one of the first things he mentioned. He didn’t want a classic social drama. We don’t really use production designers in Belgium, so for me it was always trying to bring in the art director (Toon Marien) and costume designer (Hilde Destoop) as soon as possible onto the project. We were reliant on that page. I think that worked really well for this film. The colour palette and everything you see was very well thought out.”

Delputte opted for 1.37:1 aspect ratio as they wanted the film to be a portrait of Rosita. “That’s also the reason why we picked the Mini LF, the larger sensor to create a portrait,” explains Delputte. “Rosita is the main character and we wanted photo-medium format aspect ratio almost because it’s always about her. That worked out well for us to focus constantly on her. Even a scene with her going to the clinic, the person at the desk is never sharp in the image, it’s always the focus on Rosita. You are always with her and you see her reactions. That’s something that Wannes and I discussed in the beginning as well. He said camera tricks had to be very subtle and have a purpose to them and to help tell the story. You have to feel it and not really notice it.”

All options were open in the early process and 16mm was discussed, but Destoop stressed the importance of allowing the actors to have total freedom and being able to record rehearsals was also important. “Shooting on film you have to rehearse more and you have fewer takes,” says Delputte. “Having young children involved also contributed to the decision of shooting digitally, in order to have the possibility to record even spontaneous moments. With lenses we used the blackwing 7, which is quite modern, but every lens is inspired by an old photo lens, so they all have a trimmed look and soft feel, but the thing I like the most about those lenses is the fall-off. The focus is always on Rosita and the background is out of focus and I really like the out-of-focus on these lenses. We did a lot of lens tests, but those were the only ones that worked really nicely. They weren’t too blurry and the softness worked as well with the colours and the palette we had in mind. We were very happy with the combo of Mini LF sensor and the blackwing 7 set. We described it as having to be realistic, but also poetic. That’s what we tried to do. We still wanted it to be pleasing to watch with the images and all of the colours to be aesthetic.”

When it came to lighting the film, Delputte wanted it to look and feel as natural as possible and worked with Laurens De Grande, who was the gaffer on Albatross


Delputte colour graded the film alongside colourist Olivier Ogneux. “We didn’t make a LUT for every scene as that would be impossible and we ended up using the ARRI 709 classic. It was pretty interesting in terms of how much contrast we would need. That helped as well to have a skeleton crew to move as well and be flexible, but I think we were very well prepared and for every scene Wannes and I had a good idea of what we wanted it to be.”

Delputte and his team looked at photographs for references, not so much in terms of the look, but what was in the images. “Wannes came with a reference which was Nick Waplington’s photographs from Living room. We looked at pictures of homes where there were lots of kids and you see that they are working class, but still there was lots of joy in the pictures, spontaneity, fooling around and silliness. That was something we looked at for reference.” 

“We also looked at The Florida Project, which was interesting because it has lots of colours and is a social drama, but sunny and bright,” continues Delputte. “We also looked at Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Fish Tank. Wannes and I are both big fans of Andrea Arnold, her way of filming and her approach. From shooting Albatrosswith Wannes, I picked up was creating a safe space for the actors because of the sensitive subjects and really explicit scenes in Holy Rosita. If you are handheld and very close with the actors, they are very vulnerable so you need to create a safe space.”

The stadium sequences were also challenging to capture and the production team visited 3 or 4 stadiums during pre-production. “The last stadium we looked at was willing and able to collaborate. It was hard because we couldn’t bring any spectators in, or sharpen the frame, or players or branding. We had two games that we could attend, maybe only one. We could be around the pitch and then the other moments were with extras, but they were very expensive. Then we had 2 or 3 other days without a match that we had to film at the stadium, which was actually at Wannes hometown.”

The most challenging element of the production was allowing the actors freedom and to be able to achieve that in an organic way. “They can then just focus on their own performance,” notes Delputte. “Working with Daphné Agten who played Rosita was amazing. She hadn’t done any features before, but has worked in theatre and modelling, so it was her first part in a feature film. The casting process took one and a half years. Wannes was looking at three different people and he ended up with Daphné. She was so determined and hard-working. I think what I enjoyed most on the film was the collaboration with the whole crew. It was hard work and it wasn’t a big budget production, but everyone was giving more than 120% for this film. Every department was great and it was in a way a bunch of friends collaborating. On one of the last days, the 1st AD (Sofie Tusschans) told me that she had a feeling we had really found our film language. That was something that was really special and everyone was on the same page.”  

“Above all, I hope that audiences will be moved by the emotional journey of Rosita, our main character and the visual poetry of the film. Holy Rosita is ultimately a story about doubt and nuance, and I hope that viewers will form an opinion on the theme of parenthood and it starts a discussion in our society,” concludes Delputte.

By Oliver Webb 

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