Love, origins, boundaries
by Bénédicte Prot
- Cineuropa met the filmmaker who wowed Cannes with his exciting feature debut shot over the course of nine years outside the film industry system.
A small film has become a great sensation. As well as winning the Fipresci Prize at the end of its noted presence at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival's Directors' Fortnight and the Cineuropa Prize at the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival, Hold Back [+see also:
interview: Rachid Djaïdani
film profile], a feature directed by boxer, writer, and actor Rachid Djaïdani over the course of nine years without anything except considerable human resources, has now also earned its actor Stéphane Soo Mongo a pre-selection in the race for 2013 Cesar for Best Male Newcomer..
Cineuropa: How did you start the film?
Rachid Djaïdani: Through a love story, I wanted to relate this hypocrisy that there is sometimes between blacks and second generation North Africans, in particular when it has to do with relationships with women, one between a woman and a man of different origins. My mother is Sudanese and my father is Algerian. I have always heard them say how they were both hurt, how she was rejected by the Arabs and he had to put up with French people's comments.
In nine years, did the project evolve much?
The fact that I became a father changed my approach. I wanted to move more towards the light. The blackness in which the film was initially supposed to bury itself gave ground. A very difficult scene is there to represent death, but it takes on the form of a "mise en abyme" that allows to virtually evacuate the tragedy, through cinema.
The whole film is very finely composed and articulated, but it also maintains great spontaneity. How did you reach this result?
I follow the Peter Brook school of directing. In five to six years of working together, I was able to observe how he analyses an actor's human boundaries and uses them in a way that allows the actor to bring his energy and creativity to the staging. The great quality, in the case of Hold Back, is that I knew all the people in the film very well - especially as the project lasted nine years! - so that I could push them, even when they had been driven into a corner. The date sharing scene for example was gruelling. Youssef Diawara is black but also Egyptian, so responding to the racism of his North African friend allowed him to let loose what had been building up inside him for a long time. On the other side, for Kamel Zouaoui, who is an amazing person and an extraordinary storyteller, it was very difficult to have to reel off such atrocities.
The film is very Parisian, but also completely universal. How did it do at foreign film festivals?
It's really wonderful to see how the film is welcomed everywhere it goes! In Lisbon for example, where there is notably a large Angolan community, people came to find me to tell me how much this experience had moved them and related to their daily lives. In Egypt, the audience responded very well. In England, two viewers told me that they looked forward to seeing me come back with a second film on the boundaries between social classes, because finally, that's what it's about: Here, it's about an Arab woman and a black man, but between a Jew and a Christian, or simply between two people of different nationalities or social classes anywhere, you can see the same thing.
Are you working on any other projects?
I am making a documentary on the work of the painter Yaze and I have just signed up for a narrative fiction with Anne-Dominique Toussaint from Films des Tournelles, who notably produced Respiro, The French Kissers, Where Do We Go Now?...