Tea time with Red star
What motivated you to tell the story of Adel’s journey? Is his character based on a person you knew, or on a personal experience?
I heard about the story of Djamel Chaar in 2013, a job seeker, a clown in his spare time, who immolated himself in front of an unemployment agency in Nantes. It’s a story that left a profound mark on me, and reading about it, I remembered the educators who took us to soccer, who were passionate about it, they were loved by the neighborhood club, but they were alone when they went home, all alone in their lives, this was all that they had. I wanted to mix those stories, those destinies, those solitudes.
Many of us find ourselves powerless before these kinds of administrative injustice. What did you want to communicate to your audience?
The dehumanization of all these services is a terrible thing. We cut funding, we replace counselors with a voice server, quite often due to financial constraints, whereas the unemployment numbers are not going down. There are two case workers for 200 job seekers in some agencies, it’s impossible for them to work case by case, yet in many situations, that is what’s needed. Djamel Chaar’s case is unfortunately not unique, you can explain yourself, make all the appeals you want, if the computer decides that you can’t do anything about it, then it doesn’t care that you are starving, it looks at numbers, you are only a number.
Tell us about the casting.
I would have my coffee at a bistro called Le Mistral, near Jourdain station in Paris, and Abel Jafri, whom I had loved in Timbuktu, was a regular there. We talked, and the melancholy that emanated from him made me want to write this film with him in mind. It was the second time I had worked with Judith Chemla, and then the rest was mostly my long-time friends who had come to lend a hand, Sébastien Houbani, Sofian Khammes, the people I’d met during my adventures in the theatre. I love the family side to it, it’s good to work with people you trust and love.
What are your film influences?
In my very limited experience, it seems that with each story I have to tell the influences change or become clearer, but there are some filmmakers who resist and who keep coming back, like Ettore Scola, Scorcese, Fellini, Garrone, Jacques Audiard, Iñaritu, Fatih Akin… there are too many in fact.
What would you like to work on next?
I am in the middle of editing my first feature film, Mes frères et moi, where I work again with Judith Chemla, Sofian Khammes and Dali Bensallah. It will be distributed by Ad Vitam and it will come out 2021-2022, if this pandemic stops screwing with us.
What do you think the future holds for short films?
I find it so hard to tell stories in such a short amount of time, that is why I am always amazed when it works, when it carries you away. It is a very inspiring format. I am a big fan of short films before the feature, screening in cinemas or even on TV, why not? The filmmakers in Paris did it, I do not know if it is still the case.
If we were to go back into lockdown, what cultural delights would you recommend to alleviate our boredom?
PLEASE, I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT LOCKDOWN ANYMORE.