CINEFRANCO: Redressing the legacy of France in North Africa

Film as an alternative voice

Over the past few days, each movie I have seen from the Cinéfranco’s lineup has included an enthusiastic “Bonjour” from Cinéfranco’s artistic director Marcelle Lean. What I appreciated most though was Marcelle’s sharing of how Canadian artist Andréa Cohen’s short film Sheket resonated with her because it was her story as well.

Sheket is the story of “Salomé, a ten-year-old little girl is staying at her grandparents’ home, waiting for her mother to pick her up. Facing their silence, Salomé takes refuge in her own world, wondering about their unrevealed past in Tunisia.” (cited from Cinéfranco website)

The daughter of Moroccan immigrants to France Marcelle was shut out from her parents’ pain. Although it was not discussed, as a child she sensed the malaise that the isolation from their homeland produced in them. So from this personal place one can understand the motivation behind the programming. Cinéfranco’s lineup is rich and diverse, inclusive of Francophone culture that doesn’t just come from France but other parts of Europe, Africa, Canada and the Caribbean.

On Sunday Marcelle celebrated her North African roots with a list of films that exposed the audiences to narratives speaking to the past and present of what it means to be caught in a double bind of amour / haine for the colonizer.

1. Femmes En Miroirs is part of a trilogy by Moroccan director Saâd Chraïbi. The screening was followed by a Q & A with the director himself.

“A young Moroccan female photographer of international notoriety established in Paris, has to go back to her country to attend her sick mother. Her return triggers memories of her past and of her parents secret, controversial story. The lives of her close relations intertwine into a tapestry of captivating plots.” (read more here)

2. Les Hommes Libres is an important movie that tells another tale about the Second World War from the perspective of a young Algerian man.  

“1942, in German-occupied Paris. Younes, a young unemployed Algerian, earns his living as a black marketer. Arrested by the French police, Younes agrees to spy on the Paris Mosque. The police suspects indeed the Mosque authorities, among which Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit, its Rector, of helping Resistance fighters and Jews by giving them false certificates.” (read more here)

Like Days of Glory (2007) Les Hommes Libres provokes dialogue around how “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” can be a revolutionary maxim that doesn’t always translate well from theory into practice.

Monday switched the genre but not the theme. Beur Sur la Ville, is a comedy about a serial murder in a run-down suburb on the outskirts of Paris. The film pokes fun at French stereotypes regarding Arabs, Africans, and Muslims. Although I am not one for slapstick humour, of which this film has a lot of, in a different way it challenges perspectives.

“Today, people are afraid of suburbs, Islam, Arabs” the filmmaker says. “My wish was to stave off these fears in creating burlesque situations” (read more here)

This great programming continues tomorrow at 6:30 pm  with Le Premier Homme a film adapted from the unfinished autobiography (The First Man) of Albert Camus. La Désintégration follows at 9 pm.

“Ali, Nasser and Hamza, young people facing social rejection in a suburb of Lille, meet Djamel who knows how to listen to them. His maturity and charisma attract these disillusioned youths who will progressively and inescapably drift towards radical Islamism. Philippe Faucon delivers a terrifying yet very precise analysis of the anatomy of terrorism.” (read more here)

Cinéfranco runs until this coming Sunday, April 1 with screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox. As well, Cinéfranco along with the Institut français, The Consulate General of France in Toronto, and NFB Mediatheque is celebrating Cinémathèque Afrique’s 50th Anniversary. More information on the three days of film screenings here.