She’s coloring when we meet her at a beach bar in Cannes. She must soon go back by TGV to Paris after two intense days of “world premiere”, “photocall” and “interviews”. Almond-shaped green eyes, parting in the middle and a black floral dress, Lua Michel is an actress. At nine years old, she is undoubtedly the youngest actress to hold the main role of a film presented at the Cannes Film Festival. In the funny and poignant family fresco Alma Viva, in competition at Critics’ Week and expected in theaters by the end of the year, she plays Salomé. A little girl haunted by the spirit of her grandmother who suddenly dies at her side. Sometimes intriguing, angry or sleepwalking, Lua Michel carries this film shot in a mountainous village which could be called “a funeral and a thousand hassles” and, beyond family dissension, deals with the influence of witchcraft in Portugal.

Alma Viva focuses on the child’s gaze. Behind the camera, we find Lua’s mother, the Franco-Portuguese Cristèle Alves Meira, whose first feature film this is. “At first, I really didn’t know I was going to play there. Mom just asked me during the tests to run, to try to cry or to wake someone, “says the little girl, who worked like all minors in the cinema with a coach in charge of rehearsing the child, but also to watch over him. Her mother, a director, explains that she initially wanted Lua to help her choose the other characters. She was looking for an 11-year-old protagonist, not a 7-year-old like her daughter at the start of the project. Eventually she realized that Lua would be perfect for the role. “I put him through hidden trials. I only talked to her about it when I was really sure I wanted to work with her,” says Cristèle Alves Meira.

Having to hide or be pounced on when someone sees me for an autograph or a photo, that’s not life!

At the Cannes Film Festival, the young actress had to lend herself to the game of photo sessions and press relations. Not easy when you’re nine years old. The night before our interview, at midnight, when she couldn’t stand up and was dying to go to sleep, someone recognized her and asked her to take a picture with her. “He was like, ‘Oh, it’s you! Oh, congrats on the movie!” I had to force myself to smile. It’s hard sometimes to always be happy and beautiful. »

Celebrity, this CM2 student does not want to hear about it. “I have anything but a desire to be known. Having to hide or be pounced on when someone sees me for an autograph or a photo, that’s not life! I want to live my life as it comes. An astonishing lesson in maturity. “It’s reassuring that she has such a perspective. She’s not in some glamorous movie fantasy,” her mother said.

A publicist comes to pick up Lua for a new photo session and a mini-interview. She returns a few moments later: “I took the picture, but I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t feel like it. In Cannes, she saw nothing other than the film in which she plays. The other works in competition, Top Gun, Tom Cruise… The promotion of the film hardly left him time to taste glamour. Her best memory from the festival? The one when, during a somewhat plan-plan evening on the Arte channel boat docked in the port of Cannes, the young Ricardo suddenly turned on a Portuguese hit and she danced. “The classy people left, what were we laughing at! »

The filming of Alma Viva lasted two months last summer in Portugal. Lua really enjoyed this experience in the village where her grandmother was born. Of course, there were those times when she had to redo and redo scenes until late in order for them to be perfect. But her filmmaker mother adapted to her, sometimes abandoning the text of the character to give her the freedom to improvise her emotions. “I especially like acting with other people. When you’re all alone, it’s more difficult,” Lua breathes. In one scene, she prepares herbal tea for her grandmother. “At home, mum never lets me have a pot of boiling water,” she jokes, before saying, “Did you see, mum, how well I do it? »

The young actress loved playing this “little witch with a dark side.” She dreams of playing a “real witch, one who makes potions with hours, bleach and currants.” “But it is not yet certain that she will pursue the cinema. ” I do not know. It will depend on whether I like the script and the story,” Lua replies. Nine years old, and already a seasoned professional in the 7th art.