“We do not all have the same memory, but we have one story”, launched by Omar Si at the Cannes premiere of “Tyralers”. Mathieu Vadepied’s film, which tells the story of a father and son during the First World War.
Telling stories and thus reconciling memories is exactly what cinema can do. Memory spoiled by France’s colonial past. Already in 2006, Rashid Bouchareb launched his own Native storming Croisette. It is to remind French society with amnesia of the role of soldiers who came from Africa and other countries to free France from the Nazi yoke.
The film, which intertwines the destinies of individuals and the destinies of a nation, is a matter of pride for the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Awarded the prize for collective interpretation, a small acting troupe (Jamel Debbus, Sami Nasseri, Roshde Zem, Sami Bouahila and Bernard Blancán) took the stage at the Lumiere Marseilles Theater, which wanted to become a song of reconciliation.
Become a Frenchman one day
This year, two films (at least) continue this work of memory. Indignant, Shootingpresented at the opening of the section Un Certain Regard, presented “Two Weeks of Directors”. Kharkiv from Philip Focon. Both, in different styles, cover the same drama: the recruitment of men from the non-existent French Empire on the battlefields in France and elsewhere.
Pass under the forced flags in the case Shooting. Commitment dictated by poverty, the fruit of colonization, in this case Kharkiv. However, Mathieu Vadepied refuses to portray his heroes, his father (Omar Si) and his son (Alassane Diong), two Senegalese peasants, only as victims. He also makes them heroes, each in his own way.
The first decides to wear a French uniform, stay with his son and try by all means to protect him. The second becomes an ideal soldier, wears sergeant’s stripes and fights bravely. “Brainwashing”? As another shooter said. Or assertiveness on the battlefield? The film does not reassure, but recalls the hopes of these fighters: to one day become a Frenchman. The latest photo under the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier shows that these promises remain unfulfilled.
The tragedy of Kharkiv
Philip Focon, he adds an extra stone to the filmography, which gives a place of honor to the humble, the invisible, as well as dialogue between communities. Kharkiv can be seen as a counterpoint to his film Treason. The young non-commissioned officer was confronted with the reality of the Algerian war, in particular with the somewhat mixed feelings of Algerian conscripts, those who were called French Muslims.
Kharkiv could also be called Treason, because here’s what it’s about: how bitter were the great cuckolds of decolonization. Shot by dry letter, without tremolo, Kharkiv In the period from 1959 to 1962 followed the fate of several Algerians who found themselves in Kharkov. Of course, voluntarily, but in two short, poignant scenes, the film clearly shows him, driven by poverty, the need to feed his family.
Or driven by a blind cycle of “felag” violence, these “bandits” who are fighting for independence in response to other colonial violence. But in any case, these aids are despised by almost everyone. Algerians are regularly involved in the French army for those who support the FLN. “The French have hired maids, they are paid for potatoes,” laughs one of them. Kharkiv ends with a reminder of the number of Harkis killed by their Algerian brethren after they left France: between 35,000 and 80,000. We understand all too well why the film was shot in Morocco and not in Algeria.
Like Mathieu Vadepier, Philip Focon avoids Manichaeism. Both depict officers who are guided by the meaning of the word and the brotherhood of weapons. A lieutenant who speaks of equality in the trenches. A young officer who is struggling to get his hands to come to France. Every spectator must question the actions of these soldiers: did the manipulators, in turn, manipulate conscientious people? In any case, in these characters and their actions we see the desire of the directors, Mathieu Vadepier and Philippe Focon, not to resist the memories, but, giving them a voice, to reconcile them.