Camelia Jordana and Fianso united in a film on victims of police violence, Jeune Afrique
Camelia Jordana and Fianso reunited in a film about victims of police violence
If the affairs of people killed by police are increasingly publicized, little is known about the lives of the families who are fighting to have these facts recognized as homicides. The exploration of this intimate is at the heart ofBefore the flames go out by Mehdi Fikri.
Karim's death following a police check upsets his family, first and foremost Malika, his sister, who had broken up with the repeat offender. In the midst of mourning, she must make crucial decisions so that the case does not sink into oblivion. The media window is the one that gives its name to the title: before the flames go out, that is to say before the riots which engulfed his neighborhood ceased. A long fight judicial begins, with serious consequences on his life as a couple…
Each member of the El Yadari family is faced with a personal dilemma which gives strength to the family drama. The casting is supported by the performances of its actors, among whom stand out the singers and actors, Camélia Jordana and Sofiane Zermani, also known under the pseudonym Fianso. With this first film, former journalist Mehdi Fikri gives life to the political fight led by the victims' families and their entourage.
Jeune Afrique: What is your background?
Mehdi Fikri: I went to the Lille journalism school, then I worked for three years in the eco-social section of the daily Humanity. I notably dealt with social plans in the region after the 2009 crisis, which allowed me to More info France in depth. From 2011, I was in charge of the police/justice/low-income neighborhoods file and I was able to observe all of the struggles against police violence – mediated or not – which inspired the film. At the same time, I always had a desire for cinema and, in 2018, I finally handed in my press card to become a full-time screenwriter. I wrote and directed two short films, Two and a half minutes et Descent, selected for several festivals including the Venice Film Festival and Clermont-Ferrand. I also worked as a scriptwriter on the series Ourika, Miskina (Amazon Prime) and Hippocrates (Channel +).
The title of your film refers to the period during which the media listened to the victims' families. Did you use your experience of reporter ?
Not only. I grew up and still live in 93, I draw inspiration from what I experienced as a teenager at the end of the 1990s and as a political activist from the end of the 2000s. writing the film, I relied in particular on my contacts with Truth and Justice committees. When a young person dies, families are quickly contacted via social media by activists, as happens in the film. These activists explain to them that they only have time for riots to create “political momentum”. This moment when journalists are there to cover the revolts, their microphones extended towards the families, is the time when the truth is still questionable. Strategies is put in place : speak up quickly, hire a lawyer, do not bury the body in order to request a second autopsy. The cleverness of these strategies runs counter to the idea that neighborhoods are political deserts.
Is your film inspired by real events?
This is not a hidden biopic. The story is inspired by many cases. I thought in particular of the deaths of Lamine Dieng in 2007,Ali Ziri in 2009, Wissam El-Yamni in 2012, Amine Bentounsi in 2012 or obviouslyAdama Traore in 2016. For example, Malika (played by Camélia Jordana) takes photos of the marks of beatings on her brother's corpse, as I was able to observe in the El-Yamni affair. Its goal is to obtain an investigating judge, as in the Ali Ziri affair. Il there are bits of real stories but nothing that is exclusive to a single family. And above all, my film is also – and almost more – a family drama. To be able to explore the past, the heartbreaks and the darkness of the El Yadari family, I needed to make it a completely fictional family.
Were you able to speak to families of victims to document their intimate upheavals?
No, I have no idea of the intimacy of these families and I did not wish to know it. I didn't set out to make a documentary. Inventing siblings from scratch, notably a class-defector little sister who refuses to fight – Nour, played by the brilliant Sonia Faidi – was a way of anchoring the film in a place of pure movie theater.
Your film also raises the question of duty towards one's family. Malika as a child is scarred with three lines to symbolize the union of siblings, at the beginning of the film. Is this connection a blessing or a curse?
This scene opens the film because I immediately wanted to ask the question: what does it mean to belong to your family? This is the dilemma of the second generation of immigrants: to express the suffering of our parents, should we adopt the same attitude as them, that is to say silence, or on the contrary speak out and revolt? In other words, to be loyal to your family, do you have to be disloyal to them? To take a personal case, my father grew up in an orphanage in Casablanca from the age of 8 to 23. When I was a child, I was going every summer in Morocco but, as an adult, to follow in the footsteps of my past, I had to go to this orphanage alone. He never took us there…
What is the role of journalism in covering these cases?
It's about telling the truth. Institutions must be accountable to citizens, journalists must not allow lies to pass. I wanted to make a film about coming out of denial and Malika's whole struggle is to name things. She is fighting for justice to finally say: “Karim was killed by police officers”. This difficult path to truth interests me deeply. When there is immediate recognition of the facts by the authorities, the violence urban are most often contained. Political speech really matters, it can even be very virtuous when families take it upon themselves: my film also tells this story. Paths of emancipation are still possible.
How did you choose Camélia Jordana and Sofiane Zermani (the rapper Fianso)?
Before the flames go out is my first film. And when you're a still unknown director, it's not you who choose your stars, it's they who choose you! I sent them the script via my casting director and they accepted. Camélia [Jordana] is one of the best actresses of her generation. His commitment, his generosity were incredible. As for Sofiane [Zermani], I saw him in real life for the first time at the Bobigny court, during the verdict de the Théo Luhaka affair, another case of police violence. Sofiane was talking with the police and young people to calm a highly flammable situation that day. When I sent him a message to convince him to join the cast, I reminded him of this episode. Finally, for the anecdote, in my scenario, I had not determined the origin of the El Yadari family. When Camélia and Sofiane accepted, the family became Kabyle, like them. There is a singing scene in the film: Sofiane suggested to me that it was Ssendu by Idir. Idir is more than a singer, he is an icon, I'm very happy that Sofiane brought this.
Before the flames go out by Mehdi Fikri, released in French cinemas on 15 November 2023
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