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Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche • Director

The origin of the world

by 

Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche • Director

Premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard sidebar (see article) and screened at the Namur Film Festival, Back Home [+see also:
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by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche is a double love story. Between contemplation, reserve and strong feelings, the French director films two characters on the fringes of society, each living in their native country, Algeria.

Cineuropa: How would you describe your two films?
Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche: Like a diptych. In Wesh Wesh, What’s happening?, we wanted to depict the Algerian diaspora in France’s rough areas through the eyes of a character who is rediscovering his cité, area and family. Back Home [+see also:
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]
tells the story of his return to his roots. It is the same character, with the same lucid view, one that is also shared with the audience.

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We have the impression that there was quite a lot of freedom in the script. How did you go about writing it?
In a very rigorous way to try to keep this freedom. We used it more like a sort of skeleton. The priority was to film Algeria, a country civilised since the dawn of the century and home to several cultures, but also a predatory and wild land, an immensely beautiful African country. We wanted to depict the Algeria of ten thousand years ago and of today without getting stuck in the present. My ambition was to return to ancient times. At the same time, I paid much attention to what I could say about Algeria because it is a country that – to tell the truth – I know very little about and that I don’t want to judge. There is immense potential for the future because the people there, in particular the young, are hungry for progress. Algeria also has dazzlingly and remarkably beautiful women all over the country. Whether they be peasants, illiterate or crazy they all carry the flag of freedom like any other feminist!

We assist in the emergence of a social reality – in its foundation even – through your filming of groups, their laws and so on.
Yes, a community can manage and organise itself, without the need for a state or police. At the same time, it is frightening because as soon as a loose cannon wants to break free, everything falls apart and violence or insanity can raise its head. Freedom is a strictly personal quest, it is even an anti-social term. I think that is the main theme of the film.

You direct in very long shots like a documentary filmmaker.
Sometimes, my style borders on ethnographical filmmaking. And then all of a sudden, you end up with a film you didn’t expect. But it is also in the action that everything begins to make sense. Perhaps that is why I also like cinema, because there is this “action”, this sense of getting so engrossed in something that you can no longer turn back. And at that moment, you end up with another perception, another feeling. But for that to happen, you have to be open, ready to listen and be attentive. Observing is time-consuming.

Kamel has two aspects to his character, like this "Little Vagabond" character by William Blake who you refer to. In this restless wandering, this drifting isn’t there a kind of utopia of humanity today?
That’s exactly what we are depicting. I like this term utopia. We shouldn’t complain, as we are between two cultures. When you have two cultures, utopia means believing that you can realise this dream of one big family. The film raises questions about the concepts of humanity, sense of belonging, territoriality and migratory flows, all themes of the times we live in.

Was it difficult to finance the film?
No, not at all. Firstly, because we had made Wesh wesh already, which helped us a lot. And secondly, because we were supported through CNC advances in receipts. Les Films du Losange also teamed up with us and Margaret Ménégoz gave us her full support.

You write, produce and direct. Is this a choice?
Yes, totally, it is important to remain independent and honest. I want to make my films, that’s all.

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