Lina Soualem: Their Algeria

You don’t know if she is crying or laughing. The grandmother of the director, who came to France from Algeria with her husband in the fifties. She is born in 1937, the two were married for 62 years, then decided to divorce but they are still living quite close to each other. She is still cooking for him, bringing the food, taking care of him, she is active, but she has decided to have her own life for the time she has left.

He is rarely speaking, moves slowly, watches tv and goes to the local cafeteria to just sit there the whole day – according to his wife, who is no longer his wife, but they are still husband and wife as says the director’s father, an actor in numerous films and before that a mime artist. The daughter uses her father to help reveal the past of the grandparents. She wants to know her roots, wants them to tell. It works very well. The film creates a fine atmosphere.

The film is built around the conversations mixed with footage that the father has shot in 1992. Lovely footage that includes Algerian parties with song and dance. Slowly we get closer to the grandfather and the scoop is when the director, the granddaughter, shows material that she shot in their village in Algeria. Grandfather’s face changes expression and he is proud of her filming there. The former cutler in Thiers. Who with his wife left Algeria. They wanted to come back but the war came with all its atrocities.

They remember, grandmother first of all remembers. You ask too many questions, Lina…she covers her face with her hands and we don’t know if the lively old woman is crying or laughing. 

It’s of course a film about the destiny of Algerian immigrants coming to France, about colonialism but it has a universality: Did we have/do we have the talks with our grandparents before it is too late. I envy the director, I never met my grandparents and there are so many questions I will never get answers to as my parents are no longer alive. This film made me think.

France, 2020, 70 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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