Cannes Film Festival: two African films in competition for the Palme d’Or – Jeune Afrique

“Lingui, les ties sacrés” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, former Chadian Minister of Culture, and “Haut et fort” by Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch are among the 24 films selected for the award.

The Cannes film festival, canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will take place this year from July 6 to 17. A period when one can suppose that the biggest world cinematographic meeting will be able to take place normally, or almost, thanks to the decline of the health crisis.

Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux, the president and the general delegate of the event, have just unveiled the official selection. A selection which is all the more valuable in that it results from viewing almost two years of productions and achievements (2,300 films). Filming has not stopped despite the onslaught of the virus and many films slated for distribution in 2020 have not yet been released.

The arrival of two African films in competition for the Palme d’Or – an unprecedented case for a long time – is therefore remarkable. They will rub shoulders with works by former laureates like Nanni Moretti, Jacques Audiard or Achipatong Weerasethakul and big names like Paul Verhoven or Sean Penn.

Lingui, the condition of women in Chad

The Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, awarded several times in Venice (in particular with the special jury prize for Daratt, in 2006), has already been present twice in competition at Cannes with A screaming man, in 2010 (jury prize) and Grisgris, in 2016. And there he presented in 2015, during a special screening, a gripping documentary on the survivors of the dictator Habré’s jails (Hissein Habré, a Chadian tragedy). He will be found at the head of the Chadian Ministry of Culture between February 2017 and February 2018, when, after disagreements with the government, he abruptly resigned. He hadn’t made a movie since A Season in France, in 2017.

With Lingui, the sacred bonds, this year it offers a new feature film made in Chad. It tells the dramatic story of two women, Amina and Maria. The first, a single mother rejected by her family and society, learns that the second, her 15-year-old daughter, was raped and became pregnant. A terrible ordeal for this practicing Muslim, who has difficulty accepting that her child wants to have an abortion, an act condemned not only by religion but also by law. A drama that the very rigorous director undoubtedly raises to the height of an emblematic story to evoke the condition of women in Chad, and throughout Africa.

High and loud, disadvantaged Moroccan youth

It is in the youth of his country that the Moroccan Nabil Ayouch is interested in High and loud (formerly titled Casablanca beats). This is his first participation in the competition in Cannes, which also represents a first since the creation of the festival for a Moroccan film.

He has already been to the Croisette on several occasions – to God’s horses and Much loved, two films which had provoked very lively debates – but in less prestigious sections (Un certain regard and Quinzaine des Réalisateurs). The film which will compete for the Palme d’Or can be summed up as follows according to its author: “It is the story of a former rapper who arrives in a cultural center in the shanty town of Sidi Moumen and finds a group of young girls and boys. to whom he will pass on his passion for hip-hop ”. A new manifestation of the particular interest of Nabil Ayouch, author in 2000 of the immense success Ali Zaoua, Prince of the street, disadvantaged young people. High and loud, he assures, is not unrelated to what he experienced in his own childhood.

The Middle East well represented

While waiting for the choices of the side events (Critics ‘Week and Directors’ Fortnight) which will be unveiled in a few days and will perhaps correct the shooting, we can note that apart from these two films, no African feature film has was retained in the official selection of Cannes, whether for Un Certain Regard or the other sections (films out of competition, special screenings, Cannes premieres).

The Middle East, on the other hand, will be rather well represented on the Croisette with films from Iran (A hero, by Asghar Faradhi), from Turkey (Commitment Hasan, Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu) or Israel (Ahed’s Knee, by Nadiv Lapid and There was a morning, by Eran Kourin). We can also note, among the selected ones which arouse curiosity, the presence of a film from Haiti (Freda by Gessica Géneus) as well as that of the second film by Hafsia Herzi (Good mother).

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Cannes Film Festival: two African films in competition for the Palme d’Or – Jeune Afrique

Hank Gilbert