"Culture opens the speech"
Algerian born in France, Yamina Benguigui is the incontestable hexagonal film face of subjects related to memory and immigration. In documentaries such as "Mémoires d'immigrés" (1997), "Pas d'histoire ! Regards sur le racisme au quotidien" or "Le Jardin parfumé" in 2000 and the success of her first feature “Inch'Allah dimanche" (2001), the director gets deeper without deviation, on the hollow of cultural integration.
Euromedcafe: Do you perceive yourself as the film-maker of immigration?
Yamina Benguigui: "Among other things, but I would rather simply say, as a film-maker. We have been raised by our parents in a society let us say Algerian, while living in France, where one considered us as strangers. We were not from here, not from there. I think that one also begins to exist when one sees images of oneself. It was necessary to put this story and this memory in images because we found it difficult to situate ourselves: we didn't exist nowhere. The first generation lived in the antechamber of France, and was almost invisible, in any case to cinema and to television, not even in the out field. I put of three years to achieve "Mémoires d'immigrés" For television, it was an UFO and there was no interest for the project. But I continued without imagining the impact that the movie had indeed. "Inch'Allah dimanche" was also difficult to finance, but thanks to the prices that it got, to produce my next movie "Le Paradis, c’est complet !" proved to be easier."
Where is according to you intercultural dialogue between Europe and the countries of the Southern river of the Mediterranean?
"It is very complex. Today Europe cannot amputate itself of its immigration coming from the South. About fifteen years ago, it was an immigration in transit, now those that were to leave have remained and have had children, maintaining a tie with their countries of origin. And there is a very strong apprehension because these countries, in particular those of Maghreb are in full mutation, in particular in everything related to religion. I find that the integration of the populations of the Maghreb is more and more complicated in Europe whereas the report of state to State has definitely improved. It is a problem of prejudices because France didn't pay the balance of its colonies. In France, in the collective memory, a Mohamed is a sweeper or a worker. We haven’t succeed in making move mentalities, notably in the world of companies. I have just finished a documentary for France 5 on discrimination to the employment of graduates descended of immigration. A movie on the prejudice, the upstream of racism, when one hasn’t even provoked the encounter. France never considered it as a problem and therefore has never tried to put it right, but the ghetto exists indeed. And it harms the countries of origin, these are rests of history."
What role can cinema play to improve this dialogue?
"Culture opens the speech. I believe that cinema is fundamental because the image is determining in intercultural relations. Today, most my films are used by French ministries. The movies emanating from immigration have already succeeded in making things move. But the countries of the South have not managed to emerge in cinema, in spite of big hopes such as Nadir Moknèche ("Viva Laldjérie"). Cinema is in general subversive, and therefore not a political priority in these countries. However in Algeria, cinema is a little better, with currently five or six co productions and there is also a renewal in Morocco. On the year of Algeria in the Forum des Images in Paris, I invited Algerian directors to meet French film-makers as Tonie Marshall, Catherine Breillat... After that, four students were able to integrate a training initiative in the Fémis. A good idea would also be to encourage French directors to take on Algerian young sound or image professionals... Today, it passes through initiatives of this type, modest but that can get larger. In the cinema world the will of help exists and it can go through borders."
What are your projects in the short term?
"In September I begin to shoot a series for France 2 6x52 min., " Aicha", that will tell the daily of a girl of 23 living in a suburb in Paris. It is the first time that a TV channel will broadcast at 20h30 a series on this subject. Then, in January 2005 I will start to shoot my second feature film "Le Paradis, c’est complet !", with Gérard Lanvin and Mathilde Seigner. It will speak of the difficulty to bury the Moslem in France. The story of someone who ignores his identity, to whom one announces that his father is dying in a home. He must bury his father according to the Moslem ritual, in the next 24 hours, and he is going to learn that Moslem graveyards are full in France (about sixty of them exist) and that to send back the body in Algeria passes by waiting lists (2 bodies by plane). A movie produced by Bandits Productions and my producer of always, Philippe Dupuis-Mendel."