From 1992 to1999, the Swiss photographer, Micheal von Graffenried, caught a chaos-ridden Algeria on film. He returns with Mohammed Soudani to find the people he photographed, his book of the photos tucked under his arm. They rediscover the same disarray that the images had caught: discussions of those killed, a young girl who cannot forget the horror she went through when her family were massacred, a youth completely devoid of all hope and who laughs bitterly about it, a fear inscribed in each and everyone. This fear « is my shadow: it follows me everywhere and I accept it », confides one man on a train.
A debate arises about the status of the photos, their view of reality, and their power to distort, like, for example, the picture of the kalashnikov in the stadium, which in fact only belongs to a policeman. One woman denounces the mercantilism of a photographer’s view that focuses on the sensational alone without giving space to the women’s resistance. This judgement, which comes like a sharp slap, marks a turning point in the film. From the question of forgiveness asked at each new meeting (« no, I do not forgive », or « yes, I forgive but I don’t want to live with them »), it shifts onto the role of the image, whether photographic or cinematic. What’s the point of trying to capture gazes frightened by the presence of the camera and an intimidating police presence meant to protect the filmmakers? On the other hand, can you just steal images without authorisation? Between an unconcealed film camera that respects the request not to film a face and a camera slung over a shoulder that shoots photos without appearing to, a both ethical and political debate imposes. Soudani’s greatest merit is that he opens the debate on the spot, with all the risks that that entails, and accepts the ambiguity surrounding these image professionals whose importance in the political debate is recalled by the omnipresent satellite dishes. « There is a war between the minaret and the satellite dish », claims one Islamic fundamentalist, convinced of the need for censorship.
History, these 3200 years of Algerian history that an inset sets out in major dates at the start of the film, is made up of individual destinies which these questions of ethics in politics pose. This is what Soudani points out by ending his film with a discreet return to his native town of Chlef, sincerely adding his own gaze charged with a fruitful uncertainty. This cinematographer, who treats the image so marvellously in his own films, accepts the discomfort and the limits of a small digital camera here in an urgent situation (the police presence is constant), to return to his country to ask the fundamental questions that permeate his cinematographic undertaking. A personal touch, as if to tell us that a nation can only achieve peace « without its stomach knotted with fear » by truly posing these questions.
///Article N° : 5638