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CANNES: The filmmakers hold up a mirror to France at the Cannes Film Festival on its colonial past, aided by the power of the stars and a growing French will to face the injustices committed in particular in Africa.
The colonization of Algeria and the horrors of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) left a deep mark on both nations and continue to mar relations, but were hardly discussed in France in public for decades.
Although President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged the crimes committed – including a 1961 massacre of Algerians by police in Paris which he called “inexcusable” – his government has ruled out “apologizing” for the colonial past. from France.
“I think you could say I’m obsessed with the war in Algeria,” French director Philippe Faucon told AFP at the Cannes Film Festival.
His film “Les Harkis” tells the story of Algerians who fought alongside French troops against the independence movement, only to be mostly left behind when France withdrew from Algeria and faced revenge. victorious Algerians.
The film places the blame for this “criminal betrayal” and subsequent Harkis massacres firmly at the doorstep of then-President Charles de Gaulle.
“It is necessary to remember this history and to look the truth in the eyes,” said Faucon, of Algerian origin, although the historical “complexities” make easy judgments impossible.
Fellow director Mathieu Vadepied also warned against easy conclusions about France’s forced recruitment of Senegalese soldiers for its war effort during World War I, the subject of his film “Tirailleurs” (“Father and Soldier”). .
French superstar Omar Sy – who achieved huge international success with his roles in ‘Intouchable’ and Netflix hit ‘Lupin’ – stars in the story of a father and son who are both forced into the trenches.
“My idea is to question things,” Vadepied told AFP. “Questioning France’s historical relationship with its former colonies, what do we have to say today, do we even know what we have done?”
While rejecting any “frontally political” approach, he said that “if we deny the facts, we can never move on, we have to tell these stories, everyone has to know them”.
The idea, however, was “not to make people feel guilty, but to acknowledge the painful history and set ourselves free”.
Sy, the French-born son of West African immigrants, told the audience on the film’s opening night: “We have the same story, but we don’t have the same memories.
The second week in Cannes will see the screening of “Nos Frangins” (“Our brothers”) by French director Rachid Bouchareb who, in 2006, sparked a national debate with “Indigènes” (“Days of glory”), a film on the contribution du Nord African soldiers of the Free French Forces during the Second World War.
In his latest film, he tells the story of Malik Oussekine, a student killed in 1986 and whose name resonates deeply among French minorities.
On the night of December 6, 1986, two police officers beat the 22-year-old Franco-Algerian to death on the sidelines of a student demonstration in Paris.
He had not been involved in the protest and his killing marked a turning point, sparking weeks of unrest and culminating in the unprecedented condemnation of the officers involved.
It took 35 years for the death of Malik Oussekine to be told on screen.