Festival: 44th Cinemed

Stirring up as every year several competitions, previews, retrospectives, special screenings and multiple meetings, the Cinemed belongs to these festivals which have the gift of bringing together films from different horizons with a rather remarkable coherence. Within the competition, several good discoveries seemed to revolve around a common attempt to explore the singularities of characters with atypical life paths: the romance of a Syrian refugee in Beirut in Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous by Wissam Charaf, the passion for Brazil of a young Moroccan in Abdelinho by Hicham Ayouch, the difficulty for a young mother to raise her baby while taking care of her own dying mother in lullaby by Alauda Ruíz de Azúa… Rachid Hami, the director of Pour la France, one of the two French films in competition, began the discussion session following the screening of his film by declaring that he wanted to “talk about the individual”, a somewhat bombastic formula but which, in this precise case, says something about the singularity of his film.

To the extreme

He reconstructs here the story of his brother, Jallal Hami (Aïssa, in the film), a young officer who died drowned during a “huddling” at the school of Saint-Cyr in 2012, through some significant episodes of their life. (common, then separate), by intermingling different spatio-temporal strata through flashbacks that chop up the course of the week following his death. This river story is structured around the idea that the multiple violent events in Aïssa’s life (a brutal arrest by Algerian extremists in the 1990s, a father who prevented them from leaving for France, a fight in a club night…) all converge towards the most tragic of outcomes: Hami works in this way to break through a dull anger in the protected environments examined here (in particular the family nucleus, above all represented by the relationship of the two brothers with their mother) . By opening with the drowning scene, the film nevertheless seems to be taking the opposite path somewhere, identifying the characters and the situations to bring their complexity to light. For example, the French army is represented as an ambiguous entity and incapable of recognizing its full responsibility in the affair. This confrontation between individuals and institutions (“If it’s the fault of the system, it’s no one’s fault”, will be heard during the discussions between the family and the general staff) is represented during the scene where the mother discovers the body of her son, exposed in a mortuary room. A long shot fixes the tearful film, surrounded by a few relatives, before her reverse shot reveals the presence, behind her, of dozens of soldiers. Rachid Hami thus depicts the difficulty of mourning in the face of the coldness of an authority that encompasses and anonymizes its members.

Abdelinho by Hicham Ayouch, a satire of Moroccan society, was the other surprise of the competition. In a remote village in Morocco, Abdellah calls himself Abdelinho, because of the fascination exerted on him by Maria, the heroine of a Brazilian soap opera to whom he speaks directly on his television set. One day Maria hears him, surprised at first, before a passionate discussion develops between them. Unlike the figures of For Francethe strength ofAbdelinho lies in its caricatural characters with exacerbated personalities (Abdelinho repaints everything he owns in yellow and green, the colors of the Brazilian flag). In this village whose nuances are absent, nothing more normal than a “televangelist” arrives there and proclaims it “nest of evil” – and all the inhabitants to become radicalized by prohibiting almost everything. If this criticism of Islamist dictators is not always very subtle, Ayouch highlights the power of media discourse by gradually abolishing the separation between the real life of the characters and television: Abdelinho communicates with his idol of the small screen (who , when she answers him, goes beyond the framework of the soap opera, in shots adapting to the panoramic format of the film), the junk prophet of a show that the hero’s mother idolized becomes the guru of an entire village, visual effects straight out of television imagery are gradually infiltrating the world of film… Beyond questioning the joint profusion of images and standardizing discourse, Abdelinho is mostly a farce, it must be said, quite funny.

Get out of yourself! »

In the soap opera that Abdelinho watches, Maria is a deputy fighting against real estate corruption in Buenos Aires. A theme that finds a striking echo in the first film of the retrospective devoted to the work of Francesco Rosi, Hands down on the citya neorealist masterpiece depicting the battle of the city council of Naples faced with the speculations of an all-powerful entrepreneur, in the early 1960s. Rediscovering the film today takes us back, two years back, to the vertigo aroused by City Hall by Frederick Wiseman. Where the American filmmaker films the tumult of municipal debates in Boston, Rosi mixes real and reconstructed situations, professional and non-professional actors, scrutinizing with the same interest these vast discussions whose real issues often seem very vague. Despite the sixty years that separate them, these two films produce the same feeling of intense closeness with the individuals they immortalize.

This 44th Cinemed also hosted a retrospective of six films by Abdellatif Kechiche (Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo, shown at Cannes in 2019, has still not been released in theaters). Faced with the lack of enthusiasm with which Krimo, the central character of Dodgedemonstrated for his role in The Game of Love and Chanceher French teacher got carried away: Get out of yourself! “. If he has taken on this role, which he barely understands, it is to please his comrade Lydia, the performance of the play thus causing a certain blurring between the framework of the rehearsals and their real flirtation. New thematic bridge with For France, in which also floats the question of integration for the two brothers of Algerian origin: Kechiche questions the cultural gap and the limits of an educational system that leaves many students on the margins. All the difficulty of adolescence seems to lie in this injunction which, in this precise case, is also a vector of humiliation: how to find one’s place in a microcosm where each act, each word, is weighed, commented on, discussed? The porosity between the sentimental stories of college students and the play they review at the bottom of the buildings, exposed to all the windows of the district, shows how their relationships are constitutive of a permanent representation, where each plays a well-defined role. So that all these films presented at Cinemed, although different, seemed basically to share a common observation: to assert oneself, to come out of oneself, that is basically what it is, to exist singularly.

Dodge (Abdelatif Kechiche, 2003)

Festival: 44th Cinemed – Critikat