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Interview with Dania Reymond-Boughenou, director of Constellation de la Rouguière [Constellation]
Saturday 5 February 2022, by ,
Residents of La Rouguière talk about their life in this unique district of Marseille which welcomed returnees from Algeria in 1962. As they testify, they summon the memories of a memory haunted by history and by loss of loved ones.
Where did your desire to make a film about the Rouguière neighborhood in Marseille come from?
That part of Marseille comes out of a very specific context: 1962 when Algeria gained its freedom. At that moment, the repatriates from the war became la Rouguière’s first inhabitants. Several waves of immigration followed, including many Algerian immigrant laborers. Since I’m both mixed-race and from Marseille, I wanted to dig into the memory of that History through the neighborhood.
How did you go about choosing the witnesses we see in the film?
I went out to meet the inhabitants and some wanted to talk about their arrival and their life in the neighborhood but they didn’t want to be filmed. So we only hear them. The people we see are actors who took over from the inhabitants using their accounts. I also very quickly felt the need to fictionalize things in order to explore a deeper form of memory. So we worked on the transgenerational emotions and memories in a family-based workshop that we specially organized prior to the writing stage. The question of death and wounds was fleshed out through the workshop. The question of who was a witness also became more complex because the actors and I were also filled with a memory that we shared with the inhabitants of the housing estate: the memory of the Franco-Algerian War. Writing consisted in bringing together those different registers.
How did you go about creating the silences and illustrations that accompany the testimonies?
Through my sense that we couldn’t bring forth the memory of the neighborhood without taking into account the presence and history of the dead. We had to make room to listen to the invisible world.
How interested are you in the question of the wounds each person carries within them? Do you see yourself making other films that bring to light that aspect of our being?
I don’t ask myself the question directly like that, but, perhaps naively, I believe in the restorative function of cinema. In any case, the cinematic issues I’m interested in often derive from a gulf in meaning. My next project also deals with a story of trauma. But I hope to make a genuine comedy one day!
What interested you about the scene with the ghost?
There are several in the film and what interested me was manifesting their presence, giving them a place, listening to them, watching them. Incidentally, ghosts in films are often political. A ghost is someone we do not wish to see. Why?
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
Je vous salue, Sarajevo (I Salute You, Sarajevo) by Jean-Luc Godard.
What’s your definition of a good film?
I’d say that any means are good but that as an absolute, a good film allows us to cope with death while keeping our hope alive.