Omar Killed Me tells "a tragically extraordinary story"
by Fabien Lemercier
22/06/2011 - After his attention-grabbing directorial debut Bad Faith (2006), actor Roschdy Zem brings us his impressive second feature, Omar Killed Me [trailer], which has won acclaim from critics and is being launched today by Mars Distribution on a 249-print run.
Bolstered by an outstanding cast, starring Sami Bouajila and Denis Podalydès, the film looks back at the case of Omar Raddad, a gardener sentenced to 18 years in prison for the alleged murder of his employer in Grasse in 1991. The verdict was influenced by the words written in blood at the scene of the crime which read "Omar m’a tuer" (meaning “Omar killed me”, with a spelling mistake in French). But doubts still remained, leading the French President to grant Omar Raddad a partial pardon in 1996.
"It’s not about settling scores or revising history," insisted Zem (who co-wrote the film with Olivier Gorce). "I just felt a desire to tell this tragically extraordinary story. What interested me was the experience of this young immigrant, who understood and spoke French badly, who was crushed by a judicial machine and caught up in a hellish media spiral because of a dramatically staged crime."
This crime story is cleverly adapted through the character of a Parisian writer, a cultured dandy who carries out a counter-investigation. "We created his character to partly reduce the pathos of the story and it was important that he wasn’t just a law-upholder with a thirst for truth. I also wanted people to imagine that Omar Raddad could be guilty and I tried to show a form of ambiguity."
Omar Killed Me was produced by Jean Bréhat and Rachid Bouchareb for Tessalit Productions. Its €6.4m budget included co-production support from France 2 Cinéma and Mars Films, and pre-acquisitions from Canal+ and Ciné+. International sales are being managed by Elle Driver.
Today also sees the release of three other French films: Alain Cavalier’s Pater [trailer, film focus], a highly original film selected in competition at the recent Cannes Film Festival (Pathé Films on 40 screens); Lars Blumers’s Mike [trailer] (see news – Diaphana Distribution on 34 screens); and Philippe de Chauveron’s family comedy L’élève Ducobu (“Ducobu Pupil”, UGC Distribution in 500 theatres).
Finally, non-domestic European films stand out in the line-up with Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia’s Venice prize-winner The Last Circus [trailer, film focus] (SND on 56 screens); Belgian helmer Marion Hänsel’s Black Ocean [trailer] (see review and interview – Eurozoom on seven screens); and Brit filmmaker Rowan Joffe’s Brighton Rock [trailer] (see news – Océan Films on 13 screens).
(Translated from French)