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Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

17 October 2011

Yasmina Adi: Ici, on noie les Algériens/Here we drown Algerians

Agat Films & Cie / INA Yasmina Adi (right)
Yasmina Adi: Ici, on noie les Algériens / Here we drown Algerians by Elisabeth Lequeret. Republished from RFI (Radio France Internationale), translation from French to English by Beti Ellerson

It was exactly fifty years ago, the 17th of October 1961 in Paris, the National Liberation Front (FNL) organized a rally for the independence of Algeria. Maurice Papon, the chief of police of Paris at the time, gave orders to quell the demonstration, and dozens of bodies were found in the Seine. To commemorate this event, two films are released this week, including Yasmina Adi’s Here, we drown Algerians. A film that mixes eyewitness accounts and unpublished archives, and stories and memories—past and present.

Here, we drown Algerians

Interview with the filmmaker:

RFI: You are 36, an Algerian of the younger generation. What does 17 October 1961 represents for you?

Yasmina Adi: In Grenoble, before becoming a filmmaker I heard about this date. In the 1990s in Grenoble we started having marches and throwing flowers in the Isère. And gradually during my professional career—as I'm very interested in the Algeria war—I heard more and more about this date, but in a rather vague way. And I knew that something terrible had happened. And for many years it remained hidden. 

RFI: At the same time you say it’s a taboo, which is surprising since there is a lot of literature and films about the 17th of October 61. There are seven full-length films—fiction and documentary, on the subject. It is also surprising since it is not one of the major events of the Algeria war. How do you explain the focus of so much literature and films about the 17th of October rather than about the Sétif massacres and the battle of Algiers, for example? 

YA: I think in terms of the 17th of October there was a taboo for a long time around the facts, the number of deaths, which attracts a certain interest. 

RFI: At the end of the film, you state about sixty dead. Actually, we do not know the exact number.

YA: Well sixty corpses were found in the Seine, actually. But we do not know the number of deaths. And I think this is what stirs the public’s interest, but also it provokes the interest of filmmakers. People want to know what happened. Unfortunately, it will never be known since at the Prefecture of Police archives, there are many gaps. Gradually with the work of Jean-Luc Einaudi, the Papon trial, and the revival of this event in the 1990s, many filmmakers have addressed the issue. 

RFI: In the film, you show very well the extremely violent context of the time. In October 61 in Paris, a film by Jacques Panigel, made in 1961-62 but unseen until now—which is being released in theaters on the same day as your film—the filmmaker also shows this: he too goes in the slums of Nanterre and talks to Algerians. He asks about those who were not beaten by the police, and in fact, there are none: everyone got beat up.

YA: Yes, because the violence was so extreme during this repression! At the same time it is difficult, because you show these abuses in the images—there are images that were found and those that were not. At the same time the eyewitnesses tell you about these violent acts. So we have to measure things, between the image and the words of the witness. And that's what is complicated in violent acts of repression. Of course, I saw Panigel’s film. This film is a tremendous archive of images and testimonies. I thought nonetheless, that it was necessary to measure things, these archives, which also represent the past, and the testimony of witnesses. But also find a way to not enter into the spectacular nor make it into something severe. Because this film must be seen by all generations. So it's a balancing act, a bit complicated.

Yasmina Adi: Ici, on noie les Algériens / Here we drown Algerians by Elisabeth Lequeret. Republished from RFI (Radio France Internationale), translation from French to English by Beti Ellerson

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