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Cannes Film Festival: Actor Théo Cholbi & Director Philippe Faucon of LES HARKIS


Les Harkis
A quest for revealing the truth behind the French-Algerian war.

AM: Théo, why did you accept this particular role?
Théo Cholbi: Simply because it exposes the French government and pays homage to something that isn’t always talked about. It’s educational because it teaches the young generation that a Harki doesn’t equate a traitor and that these are individuals who were manipulated. It also represents my family as my mother is Algerian.

AM: And how did you mentally prepare for the project?
Théo Cholbi: Before the casting I spent time watching documentaries about the Harkis and emotionally dug into my family history.
Philippe Faucon: For me it was also a research process, I was born in Morocco to a French mother brought up in Algeria, who considers it her home country, and was forced to leave it in her early 20s. I read a lot and met people who lived in this period; young French men who were called to join the army in France, Algerians who were part of the French army, and even Algerians who constituted the independentist movement.

AM: Théo, how was it like working with Philippe?

Théo Cholbi: Philippe prefers non-professional actors, so he wanted us to be our selves which was quite worrying especially that it’s a historical film. It was tense on set but it turned out to be the right strategy after all.

AM: What would you say to those who might consider the film subjective to Algeria and victimizes the Algerians?
Théo Cholbi: The film doesn’t glorify colonization and denounces what happened to shed light on who the Harkis truly are, for they were never the enemies.
Philippe Faucon: It’s a real and dark topic that remains part of a dark history. I tried to show something in its difficulty without a simplification that undermines the conflict because I wanted to enter at the heart of the subject. I believe it’s a story that needed to be shown from different perspectives.

AM: Of all the characters, which ones were the hardest to imagine?
Philippe Faucon: Particularly the personalities who are less sympathetic and had to show violence and degrading acts. Those were shocking without being too much of a caricature.

AM: In your opinion, what does the Algerian cinema need to become stronger?
Philippe Faucon: It needs more freedom, there are vocal people but these are individuals that need space to express what they have inside and to reshape the Algerian cinema.

AM: Finally, what is the significance of being part of the Directors' Fortnight feature films selection?
Théo Cholbi: It’s an honor. We discovered the film for the very first time all together here, and we have a lot of children of Harkis in France who looked up to us and wanted to watch it with us.

Synopsis: During the Algerian War (1954-1962), many impoverished young Algerian men, known as "Harkis", volunteered to join the French Army. Salah and Kaddour find themselves under the orders of Lieutenant Pascal. But as the conflict draws to an end, the prospect of independence looms. The outlook for Harkis seems bleak. Lieutenant Pascal confronts his superiors, insisting that every single man in his platoon must be evacuated to France.

By Victor N.