"Kamel La France" fails in Bled Number one
by Fabien Lemercier
“The mad ones are out". This is the cruel conclusion made upon returning to the country of Algerian-born French director Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, whose film, screened in Un Certain Regard, took audiences on an authentic journey to the unknown lands of North Africa.
In keeping with his first self-produced and highly acclaimed feature, Wesh Wesh, What’s Happening?, Ameur-Zaïmeche directed, co-wrote and starred in this film.
Bled Number One [+see also:
film profile], a 100% French production, recounts the misadventures of Kamel, deported from France after serving a prison sentence, who returns to his home village in north-eastern Algeria. Nicknamed “Kamel La France" by locals, the man rediscovers, almost as a tourist ("I don’t know how to pray"), the rituals of a community nestled in a verdant plain in the middle of the mountains.
This picturesque opening scene, however, is quickly transformed into a frank account of the foibles of contemporary Algerian society: young criminals trying to impose their radical Islamic laws, villagers organising an armed militia and barrages blocking entry to the village. In short, the climate is tense.
The story then focuses on the misfortunes of Louisa (Meriem Serbah), Kamel’s cousin. After having left her husband with her son, she too returns to the village. After a frosty reception from her mother, Louisa’s child is soon taken away violently by her father, her own brother beats her to punish her for the shame she has brought upon the family, and her former neighbours in Constantine wallow in their disappointments ("Don’t sing here any longer").
On the verge of suicide, she ends up in a mental hospital in what is one of the film’s most moving scenes. Meanwhile, in the bled (village), Kamel, who tried to protect her, is ostracised by the villagers and abandons his dream of returning illegally to France. An ending without hope for an almost documentary-style film, which depicts a world where differences have no place.
Produced by the director’s company, Sarrazink, and Margaret Menegoz (Les Films du Losange), Bled Number one was made with a €1.17m budget, which included a €470,000 advance on receipts from the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC).
With no broadcaster willing to sign a pre-sales agreement, Les Films du Losange will handle international sales of the film, which will be released in France on June 7.
(Translated from French)
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