Abdellatif Kechiche • Director
by Camillo de Marco
06/09/2007 - Winner of the Special Jury Prize, The Secret of the Grain [trailer] was very much loved by both critics and the public at the Venice International Film Festival and perhaps deserved more.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche (47), who was born in Tunisia and grew up in Nice, said in a press conference that the goal of his beautiful neorealist film "was to portray an environment, in this case that of a Maghrebi family that emigrated to France. There were two dimensions I was interested in exploring. The family environment, around which to create ordinary and everyday events, with a novel-like manner. To bestow naturalness to this family without falling into clichés and avoiding ‘spectacularisation’, and at the same time to create a contemplative dimension in which the characters live, cry, despair. In other words, I wanted to capture a moment in the lives of a group of people. Life itself".
Kechiche has been to Venice previously – in 2000 with Blame It on Voltaire, which won the Future Lion for a best debut film, although audiences know him best of all for Games of Love and Chance (2003). The Secret of the Grain (in French literally “The Grain and the Mullet”, the base ingredients for fish couscous) tells the story of 60 year-old ship builder Slimane, who dreams of renovating a boat on which to open a restaurant. "I didn’t want to show Slimane as a factory worker or immigrant, but as a human being with his difficulties, silence, sexual problems, ghosts. I can’t say whether or not this is a film on the marginalised. I don’t like categorisation, I blend many elements".
Kechiche’s method harks back to his theatre background and thus is very concentrated on the work on set: "Once I start shooting I know exactly what I have to do, precisely because of the many rehearsals held beforehand. My theatre training emerges peremptorily here. Then, with the camera I set myself the task of capturing the essence of what I film, and the magic of the stories and characters that I depict. To that end, the music was very important during the shoot. On more than one occasion we sought out the atmosphere of the film through the music, which in my opinion can also be seen in the actors’ performances, often teeming with solos and counterpoints, just like a musical composition. The editing phase is the result of this process on the set. In The Secret of the Grain there was three and a half hours of material so it was necessary to fix certain things in order the make the film more digestible for audiences.