Tariq Teguia • Director
by Valerio Caruso
- Algerian director Tariq Teguia tells Cineuropa about his latest film Zendj Revolution and the challenges he faced in terms of funding and diffusion
Cineuropa met Tariq Teguia in Rome. He was invited as guest of honour during the third edition of the Cinemondo festival, held at the Villa Medicis in the Italian capital, from the 21st to the 26th of November. Cineuropa, partner of the festival, paints the portrait of this young Algerian author, noticed for 3 feature films.
Cineuropa: The Cinemondo festival dedicated a retrospective to you. Before that, your last film, Zendj Revolution [+see also:
interview: Tariq Teguia
film profile],was shown as a preview atthe Rome Film Festival. Can you tell me more about it?
Tariq Teguia: Zendj Revolution was a very difficult film to produce and to finish. We started the shooting of the film three years ago, on November 17th, 2010, and it was shown only a week ago. The creation of this film is also a paradox, because it’s a film about the persistence of the possibility of a revolt, about revolution, about the refusal of oppression. We started it even before the first riots that led to the Tunisian revolution, before the movements that overthrew regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. That’s the paradox: we started something, and continued as it took shape before our eyes in Beirut. The film which explored the possibility of a refusal of oppression – this was somewhat one of the film’s themes – was overlooked by what was happening in the background – since we were listening to the radio and watching TV whilst shooting the film in Beirut.
Where was the film shot?
In Algeria, in Algiers and the south of the country, in Greece, in Athens and Thessaloniki, in Beirut, New York, and a part of it was reconstructed in Iraq. So there were a lot of locations, long distances we had to travel. That’s why it took us three years to finish this film – with a small budget of course.
It’s true that you are the specialist of small budget films, like Rome Rather Than You, that also had quite a big success in the press and festivals?
I try not to be (specialised in small budget films). It’s true that Rome Rather Than You cost us less than 150,000 euros, and yes, it was well received by the critics and in festivals. It allowed us to move on to Inland, which cost 300,000 euros. Our last film did not cost much more even if we travelled a lot – but we have finished it now, we are worn out and financially on our knees.
By the way, how did you find the funding?
We had financial support from the Algerian Department of Culture, the Val-de-Marne General Council where there’s a fund dedicated to the film industry, the Hubert Bals Fund, which is a Dutch fund attached to the Rotterdam Film Festival, some Arab funds – including the Doha Film Institute -, and a smaller amount from the SANAD, and eventually from film sales to the RAI, the Italian television channel – a small amount, which however saved the project because it came right on time.
It’s a question people most likely regularly ask you, but being an Algerian filmmaker, do you take into account the issues of censorship and self-censorship in your films, or not at all?
I write the screenplays with my brother, and we do not feel we have to censor ourselves. I do what I feel I have to do. So we offer a screenplay that is not especially accommodating with the official Algerian public policy, but it turns out to be funded. It’s a paradox. From this point of view, Algeria is like any other state: some want our work to exist, these words to be broadcasted and the images shown; others less, they do not want our works to exist and therefore do not help us. But what was written with my brother was not censored, and nobody asked us to remove this or that, and I did not have to show another screenplay, so it passed as it was. But we also have to say that the film will unfortunately have little visibility in Algeria because there are few cinemas. I hope that, unlike the previous ones, it will be bought by television – which was not the case for Rome Rather Than You, Zendj Revolution and Inland.
Is there a reason for that?
The written answer given to us by the Algerian television channel – at least for Rome Rather Than You – was that the film did not fit in the programming schedule.
This is often the case with South Mediterranean television channels, isn’t it?
That’s it. It’s a pity that films are not shown on TV, because it’s the way to the largest audience. But the film circulates in Algeria thanks to… piracy. But I must say I tried to sell Inland to many television channels in Europe, but the film was not bought. This would help us though.
But it has circulated well in festivals?
Yes, it has circulated well. I went to many places in Italy, Asia, the United States, American universities… But in the meantime, even if it has been distributed in cinemas in France, the numbers were very modest because we have very few copies. Therefore the film’s existence is very difficult: it’s long, but it’s painful.
Soon there will be new elections in Algeria. The president is ill, and we do not know if he will run for re-election. Do you think things will change for the better in the Algerian cultural policy?
The question is of a general nature – and it is not that I refuse political questions, making political cinema myself, but political cinema needs forms. Honestly, I do not know if it’s destiny, changing a man to change a situation. I think much more will be needed. I think it’s up to the Algerian people, with their complexity and contradictions, to take matters into their own hands. It’s not one man’s destiny that will change Algeria. If I had to be consistent, I would summarise with the words written during the battle of Algiers: “one hero, the people”.
For now, you’re not living in Algeria anymore. Is it a professional choice?
I left Algeria a long time ago. I studied in France and I travelled a lot since working in filmmaking. Therefore, yes, it’s a choice, but at the same time I do not know if having to move or go into exile are really choices because sometimes they are imposed on me. I lived nowhere for a long time, but now I have decided to stop for a while.
Do you think your films have Algerian roots, or do you rather think they are international?
I am an Algerian filmmaker. The producer, who is my brother, the co-scriptwriter and the director of photography are Algerians. Most of the actors are Algerians and played mainly in my previous films. However, as we shot it in several countries, we can say it’s an international film. Our goal was to extend the formal geographical questions that can be found in Rome Rather Than You and Inland, but to do it on another scale, the Algerian one. This means that Algeria is at the same time African, Mediterranean, Arab, and at the very West of the Arab world… It’s a little bit of all that. So even if we got out of the Arab world, it’s still a film fully related to Algeria.
What are your plans for the time being?
(Translated from French)