Algerian Film: What It Means to be Traitor, Hero?
Algerian director Karim Traïda’s most recent film, Les Diseurs de Verite (Speakers of the Truth), was screened at the 8th European Film Festival which is held in Beirut, according to The Daily Star.
“One night terrorists come into an Algerian village wanting to slit everybody’s throats,” Traïda smiles into the camera. “One of them bursts into a couple’s house and demands: “‘What is your name?”
“‘Fatima,’ the woman says.
“‘I can’t kill you,’ he replies. ‘My mother’s name is Fatima.’
“He then shouts at the man, ‘You! What’s your name?’
“‘Ahmed,’ the man grimaces, ‘but … everyone calls me Fatima.’”
This joke opens the Algerian director’s film which is meant, Traïda told the paper, to represent how far people will go to resist death. It’s a metaphor for the whole film.
Yet, much as Traïda seems a secular humanist in conversation, the film does look suspiciously political. It focuses upon an Algerian journalist’s request for political asylum in Holland and the events that bring about, and arise from, this course of action.
The story is based on the life of Said Mekbel, a prominent Algerian journalist who was murdered in 1994, and whom Traïda knew briefly while he was in the Netherlands. The film sees Traïda briefly playing himself, opposite Mekbel’s character.
But it soon becomes obvious that the film is not a simple biography. There are a number of stylistic devices which give the narrative a metaphorical quality. Rather than progressing in a linear fashion, the story flips between Algeria and Holland, with scenes of interview/interrogation, periods in asylum/hiding, on either side of the Mediterranean mirroring each other.
Traïda’s purpose is to underline that, for the journalist, foreign asylum is effectively the same as being gagged or interned at home. The story’s allegorical quality is sealed by Traïda’s decision, who doubled as screenwriter, to name Mekbel’s character “Sahafi” (journalist).
“This film crossed my path by chance,” Traïda told the daily. “I had no intention of making a film like this and I’ll never make one like it again. It’s too emotionally draining.”
“For me,” he said, “the big question is what it means to be a traitor and what it means to be a hero. I wanted to be close to heroism.
The day the French and Algerian resistance signed their cease-fire March 4, 1962 was, he said, a day of great disillusionment for him. “I was disillusioned with the independence movement because of all the people who were killed at the end. The village mukhtar and the young Frenchman who was going to marry the mukhtar’s daughter were both killed.
“That day I was standing saluting as they lowered the French flag and raising the Algerian.” He smiled again with the memory. “As I was standing there saluting someone picked my pockets.” – Albawaba.com