"Defending history is a noble feat"
by Fabien Lemercier
After the warmly received first screening at the Cannes Film Festival, the four lead actors of Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory [+see also:
interview: Jean Bréhat
interview: Rachid Bouchareb
film profile] had no idea that three days later they would receive a collective award for Best Actor. Accompanied by Bernard Blancan who plays the fifth lead role in the film, Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila and Samy Nacéri give their passionate first impressions to the international press.
Roschdy Zem: I have worked with Rachid for ten years now and on three films. The idea of Days of Glory seemed fantastic to me. But I said to myself that it would be quite complicated and I had trouble believing in it.
Sami Bouajila: There was something unifying, over and beyond the idea of recounting a period of history that made us ask ourselves questions, which was to reunite all four of us for this film.
Samy Nacéri: I had never heard about the event at school, we only mentioned the English or the Irish. So Rachid’s script was a history lesson for me. In 1940, the Americans said: "OK for supplying arms, but not to the natives." This subject was taboo and the French government didn’t want to open up old wounds. Yet, our children should know about it. I don’t speak Arabic, so I had to work on that for the film. I charged into the film, but without any vindictive or political motives. We too fought at the Liberation battles.
Jamel Debbouze: Well, not us personally (laughs). When we were working with Rachid, you realise that he was trying to exorcize something with the film. I didn’t know about this page in history in detail. This project would have been unimaginable not so long ago. Four actors with origins such as ours, with different backgrounds who meet up today defending history is a noble feat. It was a real struggle to get financing for the film and at the same time I was being offered several million euros to star in comedies where I had to slip on a banana peel.
Sami Bouajila: Why does France have such difficulty in dealing with her past? Our film offers a physical response to this question, as it is about rediscovering and relearning the history of France, the country where we were born.
Jamel Debbouze: But it's only one step in a long process. I am French and proud of it and completely aware of what the film is about, but I am not bitter.
Sami Bouajila: An Indigenous Code was established in Algeria in 1885, which didn’t give natives the same rights as French citizens. They were half-citizens without any real perspectives of the future. We are the children of these Abdelkader and we don’t have amnesia. It’s clear that we play a political role when we look great and have made this career in France. And we will keep on doing so until we are heard.
(Translated from French)