A Brazilian director for the history of Algeria

Karim Aïnouz’s new film. The return of three young actresses adored in France. And an Italo-Iraqi in the directors’ window. A selection of titles linked to the Islamic world arriving on the Croisette. Extract from the newsletter L’Espresso on the galaxy of Arab culture

Maybe I’m exaggerating: I remember thinking that when I noticed a name that sounded Arabic among those of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival winners and started researching whether in this director’s works Brazilian there could be a link with his roots. In fact, until that moment, the answer was no: until “The invisible life of Euridice Gusmão”, awarded in the “Un certain regard” section of the French festival, the Algerian origin of Karim’s father Aïnouz had left no trace in his films.

Just around this time, however, the director traveled to Algeria and began directing a series of films related to what he, born in Fortaleza and raised in Brazil, now calls “my country”. The first effect of the discovery of the roots was “Nardes A. A Day in the Life of an Algerian Protester”, a documentary filmed with a mobile phone, presented in various festivals and winner of the Amnesty Prize at MedFilmFest in 2020. Now c tis the turn of a fiction, one of the most anticipated meetings among those of the next Cannes film festival, scheduled for July 6 to 17, which are in some way linked to the Arab world.

Aïnouz’s new film is called “Marinheiro das Montanhas” and a special screening will be dedicated to him. It is the story of a woman abandoned by her husband, but it is also “a film which seeks my origins, which speaks of identity”, explained the director to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao. At first, he was supposed to be called “Algerian by chance” “but in reality nothing happens by chance here”. A film born to talk about his father has become a love letter for his mother. It is a story of post-colonial Algeria: also because the story of her parents is linked to the history of the country: “It was a very beautiful love story, a revolutionary love”.

A story born in New York, where the two young people studied, immediately after the Algerian independence which brought the country into the American orbit, and ended when the father, arrived in the United States thanks to a scholarship , was expelled persona non grata because he was pro-Cuban. Back home, the man forms another family, while the woman brings up Karim “like a warrior, of a single mother, at a time when this was frowned upon”: this is the story that Ainouz found in the novel by Martha Batalha which inspired “The Invisible Life”.

The woman had always dreamed that her son knew Algeria, and after his death, Karim decided to make his dream come true. A career that changed the career of this director who grew up in Brazil and specialized as a videographer in Berlin: “I had never felt Arab before arriving in Paris, which I considered my father’s city. », He declared in an interview: it was a pleasant feeling, not for nothing Aïnouz in France returns only for the festivals.

It is very difficult to have details of other films related to the Arab world coming to Cannes. “Casablanca Beats” by Nabil Ayouch, a portrait of young people from the slums produced by the Moroccan director transplanted to France, will be in competition. Turkish director Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu presents “Commitment Hasan”, Iranian Asghar Farhadi (two-time Oscar winner, for “A Separation” and “The Client”) returns with “The Hero” on his work on the secrets that emerge daily from ‘apparently serene families. The young Abdullah Mohammad Saad (“Rehana Maryam Noor”) arrives from Balngladesh, while the Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun in “Lingui” follows a Muslim woman who tries to have her teenage daughter abort: but abortion in Chad is not not only illegal, it is considered taboo, and travel becomes a social cut.

Three talented young actresses are expected in Cannes; Leïla Bekhti (“Paris je t’aime”, “Le Prophète”) returns as the protagonist of a family drama by Belgian director Joachim Lafosse: in “Les Intranquilles”, she is the wife of a man suffering from bipolar syndrome. Instead, Hafsia Herzi and Luàna Bajrami move on to directing. Herzi, awarded as first actress in Venice for “Cous cous” by Abdellatif Kechiche, presents her second film as director, “Bonne Mère”, in the “Un certain regard” section. Bajrami, a nineteen-year-old Kosovar who already won a Caesar for a role in “Portrait of a young girl in flames”, in “The Hill where the lionesses roar” tells the story of three young girls who are planning a robbery: a excerpt from a few minutes was rewarded with an audience of insiders at the Les Arcs Film Festival in December 2019.

Finally, an Italian film: “Europa” by Haider Rashid, born and raised in Florence. It is the story of a young Iraqi who tries to reach Europe by the “Balkan route”, crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria on foot. After escaping the police, Kamal finds himself living in a forest, in the midst of a group of homeless refugees. After its presentation at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, the film will be released in Italian theaters distributed by I Wonder Pictures.

Espresso, 29 juin 2021

Tags: Algeria, Cannes, France, colonization, roots,