Back home, urban rodeo, khat culture… five films to see in September – Jeune Afrique

Kad Merad, Nobel Prize

Kad Merad and Fatsah Bouyahmed in “Honorary Citizen” by Mohamed Hamidi © APOLLO FILMS

The Franco-Algerian Samir Amin, who has just received the Nobel Prize for Literature, is invited by his hometown, Sidi Mimoun, to be named honorary citizen. Depressed, unable to start writing a new novel, far from Algeria since he left it forty years earlier to flee political persecution, the writer refuses. How he refuses the countless invitations piling up on his desk. Until, without really knowing why, he decides to jump at this opportunity to revisit the place where he spent his youth and which, together with its inhabitants, inspired the plot and the characters of several of his books.

Samir Amin is Kad Merad, comedian who has become a big screen star who needs no introduction. The director is Mohamed Hamidi, who in 2016 had a huge success with his comedy “The cow”, his second film, which told the journey of an Algerian peasant from bled to the Salon de l’agriculture in Paris, with his cumbersome cattle. As we have understood, Samir Amin’s return to his native country serves as a pretext for a comedy in the same vein, where emotion competes with humor.

It is certainly good entertainment, which owes a lot to the virtuosity of the supporting roles, starting with that of Fatsah Bouyahmed alias Miloud, a hilarious town hall employee responsible for coaching the writer, and Oulaya Amamra alias Selma, a young student rebellious which will remind Samir Amin of his militant past, reactivating in passing his desire to write. But not only. Because, by situating the story in the country of origin of both the director and screenwriter and its main actor, Mohamed Hamidi offers in hollow a portrait of Algeria today. Especially since the filming took place during the Hirak demonstrations. Although he denies it when asked – “A political film? I don’t think so” – contradicted on this point by Kad Merad – “A committed film? Definitely ! – Mohamed Hamidi makes a damning statement about the country discovered by Samir Amin, where corruption, nepotism, contempt of the authorities towards the people and censorship reign.

“Honorary Citizen” nevertheless retains its lightness thanks to the director’s empathy for almost all of his characters. It will undoubtedly make laugh this majority of Algerians who know how to make fun of their own failings and especially, those of their governors. Until what point ? We can note that the film was shot in Morocco, Mohamed Hamidi himself doubting that he could have shot in Algeria…

“Honorary Citizen” by Mohamed Hamidi, released in France on September 14

girl in rear wheel

Julie Ledru in “Rodeo” by Lola Quivoron © Les films du Losange

Julie Ledru in “Rodeo” by Lola Quivoron © Les films du Losange

The film had the effect of a bomb during its presentation at the Cannes Film Festival and wowed critics. Well Named. So it should appeal to the general public. Even if it will sometimes be for the wrong reasons. Because the practice of urban rodeo has aroused many controversies in recent months because of accidents caused by the followers of this noisy and dangerous “sport”, popular with young people in French cities. But “Rodeo”, which evokes the irresistible passion of a young girl for “cross bitumen”, is in no way an apology for the abuses of the behavior of motorcyclists on the public highway.

A very radical first film, without any dead time, not unrelated in this respect to the penultimate Cannes gold award “Titanium” also directed by a young woman, “Rodeo” is above all a film which celebrates in the manner of “La Fureur de vivre” from the James Dean era, man-machine marriages and the need for adrenaline of certain individuals. In this case, that of an amoral and determined marginal barely out of adolescence who manages to be respected by a gang of bikers and claims the right to live as she sees fit, to where she sees fit. . His portrait, wonderfully embodied by Julie Ledru, the leading role of a real motorcycle fanatic who willingly poses with her machine in her room, will be remembered.

“Rodeo” by Lola Quivoron, released in France on September 7

Daesh seen from the inside

Aboubakr Bensaihi in Rebel © Jo Voets/Caviar

Aboubakr Bensaihi in Rebel © Jo Voets/Caviar

Can we tell the misdeeds of Daesh and the activities of its accomplices in Europe through a film that borrows from war films, thrillers, westerns and even musicals? Admittedly, after their Hollywood adventures (the recent “Bad boys for life” and “Miss Marvel”), Belgian-Moroccans Adil El Arbi and Bilal Fallah are returning to a cinema that is if not more classic, at least closer to the concerns that concern them.

In order to dismantle the system of the Islamic State, they tell how a young Belgian, who left recklessly for Syria, finds himself enlisted by force by the terrorist organization, until he gives in to a scheme to bring his brother who has been under the thumb unscrupulous Islamist militants in Brussels. The mother of the two soldiers despite themselves, a simple housekeeper full of courage (magnificent Lubna Azabal), will manage to find her youngest child, which she ignores the horrors he faced.

This film, which practices – excessively? – the mixture of genres, unfolds at a frantic pace and never shy away from horror to document its point. Impossible to remain indifferent in front of the screen if we accept the spectacular and brutal treatment of such a subject. But no doubt we have never seen a film for the general public to denounce so well the dangers of the propaganda of radical Islamists. Not recommended for sensitive souls.

“Rebel” by Adil El Arbi and Bilal Fallah, released in France on August 31

Ethiopia: khat in black and white

“Faya Dayi” by Jessica Beshir © Merkhana Films/FEYATEY, LLC

“Faya Dayi” by Jessica Beshir © Merkhana Films/FEYATEY, LLC

If we stick to its apparent subject, this documentary by Ethiopian living in Mexico Jessica Beshir has no reason to hold particular attention. Indeed, it tells the harvest of khat until its marketing. This very popular plant with psychotropic properties marks the daily life and culture of the inhabitants of the Harrar region where the filmmaker is from. A TV report theme.

But there ! This film has nothing to do with an ordinary documentary. His sumptuous images – of men, women, landscapes – in black and white, his slowness which hypnotizes the viewer, the beauty of the photo and of the characters, serve a story with multiple dimensions. Its aesthetic value does not harm the quality of its economic, cultural, ethical and political message. And we enter fully into the daily life of the endearing Oromo community.

“Faya Dayi” by Jessica Beshir, available on the Mubi streaming platform

Gag, it’s over

We grew up together. © Films that cause

We grew up together. © Films that cause

It was a large block of brick HLMs in the “red” suburbs of Paris, in Ivry to be precise. This city, named Gagarin – Gag for its inhabitants – in honor of the first Soviet cosmonaut, has just been destroyed. Adnane Tragha, who lived for a long time opposite these buildings, decided to film the memories of those who lived there.

She thus writes a history of the city – which first serves to house French people waiting for healthy accommodation in the post-war period, who will be joined over time by immigrant families, two populations who will have difficulty to cohabit. But above all, it pays a more or less nostalgic tribute to a place where solidarity was not an empty word, and where childhood was happy. At least before Gagarin suffered from a bad reputation from the end of the 20th century, pushing some of its inhabitants to leave. Whether it’s a brilliant student determined to take the “social elevator” by joining a university in Paris, or a rapper who knows that he will only obtain the recognition he hopes for after his departure.

Even these never managed to detach themselves entirely from Gag, with whom they will always maintain “a relationship of love and hate”, as the student says. Who is not unaware that “the degradation of the city was above all the reflection of a social degradation”. A remark which, on its own, legitimizes this endearing documentary, whose sociological interest is obvious. And which demonstrates that it is not enough to destroy brick walls to annihilate a place of memory.

“We grew up together” by Adnane Tragha, released in France on 21 september

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Back home, urban rodeo, khat culture… five films to see in September – Jeune Afrique