Review: Les Harkis – Cineuropa

– CANNES 2022: Philippe Faucon, modestly possessing cinematic drawings, carefully studies the brutal page of the history of local soldiers involved on the French side during the war in Algeria.

There are two baskets in the opening scenes of the author’s new film Philip Focon, Kharkivpresented in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs du 75and Cannes Film Festival. The first, found by an old man on the doorstep of his house in a small Algerian village, hides his son’s severed head. The second, brought by the son to the father, who digs the ground in the olive grove, contains bread and milk. It is at this two-way intersection of death and life, at the crossroads of a great history that takes people hostage to its upheavals, that the French director again decided to turn his crystal view and style into what is known to be simple and concise, dry. and bright.

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This is June 22, 1959, and the war in Algeria has been going on for four years. Senior officers and the prefect of the region enthralled Kharkiv 534, a battalion of Algerian soldiers (including the brother of the deceased from the beginning, but also the father who dug and whose land he worked, was taken over by his settler owner and found no work) involved in French troops its leaders as the “peace army” in the fight against “terrorist terrorists” (separatists). Shooting instruction, torture gegene (“he speaks or he dies”), patrolling, combing and searching villages to wash away enemies in vast dusty, rocky and desert landscapes: our kharki (including Salah, who embodied Mohammad Muffok) are at war under the command of French lieutenants Pascal (Theo Cholby) and Kravitz (Pierre Lottin) and under the watchful eye of their Algerian compatriots (“you make them shut up!”). But in 1960, France began negotiations with the FLN (National Liberation Front) to cease fire, and until 1962, doubts continued to grow among the Kharkivites: France lied to them. Will she betray them? What will happen to them? And their families? What is their place, their identity? Who are their brothers? Questions of life and death …

Both raised their heights in relation to the events of the sixties (but which still irrigate the karma of Franco-Algerian relations), while focusing as close as possible to men through a series of several paintings (discussion by the fire or in the office, marches, farewells, etc.), cutting chronology between 1959 and in 1962, Philippe Focon manages to perfectly illustrate the complexity of the page of history, where lies and honor, trust and real politics break the conscience. Howling, stabbing, census, convoy, helicopter, secret movements, bad forebodings: a few almost pointillist cinematic strokes with a scalpel (the result of his great skill of sketching), the director creates a collected and fascinating work. fiction, deliberately anti-spectacular and formally very executed, which is a worthy decoration for the page of history, which led to the deaths of 35,000 to 80,000 deaths among kharki and their families, as well as the evacuation of 90,000 of them to camps in France, where they were forced to live until 1976.

Produced by Istiqlal Films and co-produced by Les Films du Fleuve, Arte France Cinéma, Nord-Ouest Films and Les Films Pelléas, Kharkiv sold by Pyramide International.

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