Northern Wind: Two sides of the same coin
by Fabien Lemercier
- By tackling the subject of relocation, Walid Mattar's debut feature film explores the similarities of working-class lives on both sides of the Mediterranean
An economic phenomenon often brandished a symbol of the evils of globalisation, with social breakdown on the one hand and the exploitation of misery on the other, the issue of relocation has recently inspired several French films, such as Catch the Wind [+see also:
film profile] and Crash Test Aglaé [+see also:
film profile], both of which tackle the subject from different angles. The same can be said for Walid Mattar's Northern Wind [+see also:
interview: Walid Mattar
film profile], discovered in competition at the 39th Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival, a debut feature film that offers a human-sized journey with a double-sided mirror. Set in northern France and Tunisia, the film focuses on the misadventures of two workers who are connected simply by the fact that they operate the same factory machine. Two protagonists who only happen to cross paths for a few seconds by chance in the film, but who nevertheless share the same hope of individual fulfilment, despite the difficulties they both face.
Very well structured, the script (written by Leyla Bouzid, Claude Le Pape and the director himself) begins in France, where the footwear factory employee Hervé (the excellent Philippe Rebbot) has been working for 32 years and is about to be relocated. Hervé instead opts to accept the severance pay offered to him (€30,000) rather than taking on the inevitable social struggles (blockages, false imprisonment of the director, attacks by the CRS) which are currently flaring up, making it worth the contempt of the colleagues he crosses paths with regularly after countless trifecta losses. Hervé seizes the opportunity the situation affords him, buying a small fishing boat and finally setting out to sea to engage in a hobby which he is very passionate about, but which leaves his wife Véronique (Corinne Masiero) feeling doubtful, alongwith his son Vincent (Kacey Mottet Klein) who is due to join the army in eight months and who kills time playing video games.
The French factory closes, trucks load up with equipment, travelling to the port before crossing the Mediterranean for Tunis and the second part of the story. There, the young Foued (Mohamed Amine Hamzaoui) learns his craft as a worker on the same machine, a curse against salaries with no social protection, but which he clings to because his mother is unwell, hoping for a promotion, while gazing into the beautiful eyes of Karima (Abir Bennai) with whom he has a brief and discreet romance. Meanwhile, in France, Hervé starts to make a living from fishing, and helped by Vincent and Véro, builds up an informal local re-sale network for his catches while trying to act lawfully. Will our two protagonists on both sides of the Mediterranean succeed in realising their dreams for the future? Nothing could be less certain...
Carefully avoiding Manichaeism, misery and tragedy, Northern Wind paints a convincing, respectful and affectionate picture of the working-class milieus of the two countries, without the film glazing over the small yet critical elements of the two societies, where both resourcefulness and obedience seem doomed to failure. A harsh observation masked by a coating of tender social, familial and sentimental comedy that gives the film a pleasant sweet-bitter flavour.
Produced by Saïd Hamich for Barney Production, Northern Wind was co-produced by the Belgian company Hélicotronc and the Tunisian company Propaganda. It is due to be distributed in France by KMBO on 21 March 2018 and is sold internationally by Be For Films.
(Translated from French)
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