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Cannes Film Festival: Humanizing Immigrants in ACROSS THE SEA by Saïd Hamich


Cannes - La mer au loin (Across the Sea)
French-Moroccan film producer, director, and screenwriter Saïd Hamich is known for his contributions to contemporary cinema. Hamich's work which often explores themes related to identity, migration, and cultural intersections, reflects his own bicultural experiences. He has produced several acclaimed films, both short and feature-length, earning recognition at international film festivals. As a director, his projects have been noted for their compelling narratives and authentic portrayal of complex characters and social issues. And in 2024, his journey continues with his latest film La mer au loin (Across the Sea) which was part of La Semaine de la critique.

The film follows the story of Nour who illegally immigrated to Marseille and works a small-time dealer leading an unconventional and festive life. When Nour meets Serge, an unpredictable, charismatic cop and his wife Noémie, his life turns upside down.

AM: Your film opens up a lot of questions about immigrants in France. Tell us more about its pre-production
SH: I personally have worked a lot as a producer. This is my third feature film; it is a project I had since many years. I wanted to do a melodrama about exile with a lot of music where I speak about immigrants in a wider way and portray their intimate emotions. I took over this project in 2020 with a producer. I wrote the script and had the opportunity to do several workshops like the Marrakesh Atlas workshop. After two years of writing, we started looking for funding and we got the special fund on ticket sales in France. Morocco and Belgium also aided us.

AM: Did you do any field research?
SH: For me music was essential so I listened to a lot of it. What was really important to me was to capture the emotion of exile. I myself left Morocco when I was 11 years old. I wanted to touch on melancholia with a sense of partying. I researched the 90s era; the singers and the music.

AM: Any challenges you faced on set?
SH: I'd say money is always a problem. We would have liked to have more time. I had rather good conditions but we had to work quickly with a few COVID cases last year and needed to restructure the staff. I was lucky enough to have a very good team.

AM: In your opinion why has the city of Marseille inspired so many filmmakers?
SH: I have to say for myself that Marseille is really a crossroad, especially for people from Maghreb. Moreover, I wanted Rai music to exist in the daily life of the characters. There was a golden age of Rai music at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s in Marseille. There were a lot of cabarets around. The film draws inspiration in this kind of underground music scene.

AM: And what is the message behind Across the Sea?
SH: I didn't want the film to be an activist film, it is political though. In all my films, I always have characters from Maghreb, and when I tackle characters, I do so in a very intimate way. I find that they are not limited to what they do; they have emotions and they have common questions about friendship and love. They want to have fun. I don't want immigrants to always be treated as social characters. What I'm interested in my cinema is not about their hardships, but how they construct themselves.

AM: What do you think is lacking in the Maghrebi cinema?
SH: It's really interesting to see emerging filmmakers from Maghreb and from the whole African continent as well. I myself have produced two films that were in Cannes last year. I think it's good to have films, but we need some stability. It's not about only two or three films coming from the continent. The strength of French cinema is that it produces 200 films per year. I think the aim should be to produce many good films and on a regular basis.

AM: From being behind the scenes as a producer to the director of a film, how do you feel about being in Cannes this year?
SH: I absolutely adore production, but when you direct you are more at the front line. It’s really an honor to show the film to a full theatre where a lot of people were actually crying after the screening. I really enjoyed being part of the Critics' Week.