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ANGOULÊME 2022

Review: Habib, la grande aventure

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- Benoît Mariage delivers a moving chronicle of the tug-of-war of a young actor, caught between his origins and the destiny he dreams of

Review: Habib, la grande aventure
Bastien Ughetto in Habib, la grande aventure

Benoît Mariage presents in Competition at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival Habib, la grande aventure [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, his fifth feature, a transient portrait of a young actor navigating between the injunctions of his profession and those of his community.

In the beginning, Habib was a gentle dreamer. We meet him as he awakes, still a little deep in sleep. He calls out to two pigeons cooing at his window. Like his role model, he aspires to talk to animals. He praises the humility of birds, their sense for contemplation. Habib is playing the part, and maybe a little more. He’s about to wear the costume of Francis of Assisi for a play at the National Theatre. A Saint costume, then, which does raise some questions about his commitment. How can he tell his family, who are certainly pious but moved by another faith, that he is going to play this hero?

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Between the small parts of token Arabs that appear in his short filmography, and this leading role anchored in the Catholic religion, it is difficult for Habib to get his professional choice approved by his parents, who represent traditions. Until the day when, randomly at a casting, he gets a slightly particular part: a few minutes besides Cinema itself, an embrace with Catherine Deneuve. This could perhaps reconcile his family, or even his community, with his career.

Through this singular portrait of an artist, it’s also the portrait of an era that Benoît Mariage paints without seeming to, illustrating the identity search of a young man lost between his origins and his aspirations, tempted by the power of a faith that is a priori not his, and who chooses for himself an ancestral model, the figure of an ultra modern decline, the cantor of a happy destitution.

But this spiritual quest is in the end and above all an identity quest. Habib will learn, throughout this great adventure, to allow himself to be who he is. By dint of wandering, of looking for references, it’s a little bit of himself that he’s lost along the way, rather than of his father against whom he tries to build himself. “You are my father, but I am no longer your son,” he declares proudly to his genitor, much like Francis of Assisi. Habib breaks some connections to better create some new ones, move beyond shame and become part of the world in his own way.

Behind this personal quest, Benoît Mariage unveils in passing the behind the scenes of cinema, by offering a malicious and absurd vision, carried by the gently hallucinated performance of Bastien Ughetto as Habib, a host of delightful supporting roles, and of course, by the iconic Catherine Deneuve.

Habib, la grande aventure was produced by Daylight Films (Belgium) and Formosa Production (France) who have been following the Belgian filmmaker since Scouting for Zebras [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. The film is co-produced in Switzerland by Cab Productions, and co-produced in France by Polaris Film. International sales are handled by Be For Films. The French release, slated for now for 22 February 20213, will be handled by KMBO.

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(Translated from French)

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