Review: For My Country
- VENICE 2022: Rachid Hami signs a work at once expansive and sensitive on the place of each individual and the recognition of others in a family microcosm and in the macrocosm of France
“What happened? - They said it was an accident.” Aïssa, a brilliant young man aged 23 who had chosen to integrate the army and the Saint-Cyr military academy after his Political Science studies, drowned in the night between the 29 and the 30 October 2012 during a collective hazing (nicknamed “transmission of traditions” and guided, outside hierarchical control, by second year students). For his family, it is a complete shock and affliction. This tragic event really occurred to the brother of French filmmaker Rachid Hami who decided to make it the throughline of his very solid second feature, For My Country [+see also:
interview: Rachid Hami
film profile], presented in the Orizzonti programme of the 79th Venice Film Festival (where the director had already unveiled his first opus, Orchestra Class [+see also:
film profile], in 2017).
One of the greatest qualities of this fiction film is that it doesn’t go exactly where we would have expected it to (us against them, civilians against uniforms, muslims from the banlieue confronted with rigid casoar followers), but which, while tackling many of the most topical issues in French society with small, nuanced touches, traces back in particular the search for redemption of Ismaël, the older brother of the deceased. This is all achieved in a style that turns its back on the usual social realist auteur cinema for a break of classical ambitions (in the good sense of the word), travelling from Algeria of the past to Taiwan (where Aïssa had done a study exchange).
For Ismaël (the excellent Karim Leklou) and his mother Nadia (Lubna Azabal), it’s a matter of principle: Aïssa (the radiant Shaïn Boumedine), who “was proud to be in Saint-Cyr,” needs to receive the honours of a military burial that they were promised before some detours (the young man didn’t die during an external operation). These discussions punctuate the entire plot, from one meeting to the next, allowing differences to emerge beneath the uniformity of the uniform, the sense of honour of some (General Caillard, played by Laurent Lafitte) clashing with the strict observance of the rules of others. Meanwhile, Ismaël, the "disappointing" son, who has taken unsavoury paths in the past, remembers. Their childhood and their flight from Algeria in 1992, despite the total opposition of their father Adil (Samir Guesmi) who reappears at the funeral home, but also his trip two years earlier to Taiwan to visit Aïssa, a crucial face-to-face meeting between the two brothers, come to the surface.
In a film that pays a beautiful tribute to his brother, the director crosses the boundaries of the often caricatured vision of French people of North African origin and the suburbs to render, at a very human level (some scenes are inevitably poignant), all the complexity of what is the place of each person and the recognition of others in a family microcosm and in the macrocosm of France. Feeding the clear line of his story (a screenplay he wrote with Ollivier Pourriol) with multiple small suggestive details, wrapping the whole in Dan Levy's excellent music, and giving each of his three spatio-temporal spaces (the present, Algeria, Taiwan) all the attention necessary to acquire a true visual and atmospheric identity, Rachid Hami signs a work that is both expansive and sensitive.
Produced by Mizar Films and co-produced by France 2 Cinéma and by Taiwanese outfit Ma Studio, For My Country is sold internationally by mk2 Films.
(Translated from French)
Photogallery 03/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Pour la France
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