Intimate memory tends to be rooted in collective memory. Even if someone who remembers his childhood family episodes cannot directly associate them with the historical events of a town. The collective memory is made up of intimate memories that one day are revealed, told and stitched together with other situations.
That Maghreb so close and so distant that the societies of our neighbors, Morocco and Algeria, interweave, has lived through explicit colonialism for much of the 20th century and has grappled – through various arts – with such an ambivalent legacy.
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This includes the current situation of the diaspora, and the rebellions and the wounds that were left after the outbursts of injustice that also occurred, after the independence, on their own uneven soil. As neighbors, from Spain we could do the exercise of approaching the memory of the Maghreb, through the sensitivity of some of its artists.
These filmmakers who choose to relate their perplexity in the face of their own family, social and political history, making use of archive material, but writing their notes in the margin, from the present. We are talking about audiovisual pieces made present, with significant scraps of collective memory, such as Before the sunset , by the Moroccan Ali Essafi , and Leur Algérie , by the FrenchLina Soualem .
They are knocking on our door, we just have to look out: Before sunset (Avant le déclin du jour ) can be seen in one of the rooms of the mega exhibition Trilogía Marroquí, at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, and Leur Algérie is part of the program of this edition of the FCAT African Film Festival Tarifa-Tangier and is available, until June 6, on the digital platform Filmin .
For the rest, we have here two clear examples of what differentiates a work from an audiovisual report, because although they show reality from a documentary perspective, silences, the not-all-explained , abound in their writing, there is room for digression and the dreamlike, with a slow tempo in each sequence and the possibility of detail invites the viewer to continue digging to the roots.
In the documentary essay Before the sunset (2019), Ali Essafi (Casablanca, 1963) starts with objects that evoke the culture of the 70s in Morocco – album and magazine covers, pamphlets, film clips, paintings and pieces of art – to fill them with vivid history.
Thus, the archive images are not only a museum piece, but the providential shortcut to once again give voice to some protagonists of the urban artistic movement, linked to Moroccan student and union activism, and to those who suffered the repression of the most recent period. lasts for the so-called Lead Years . In his meta-story, Essafi relies mainly on the images revealed by negatives, recently found in the Filmoteca de Catalunya, from an emblematic film that was banned in Morocco, after a single preview screening in Paris, in 1975.
That essential film is On Some Nonsense Events (De quelques évènements sans signification, 1974), by Mostafa Derkaoui, which can also be seen complete and restored in one of the rooms of the Reina Sofía museum and, this week, in Tarifa, in the FCAT framework (the full history of the find in the film library can be found here ).
The incarnation on which those wounds will heal could be these found stills from On Some Nonsense Events , a daring film that proposes a fictional plot in the middle of an almost journalistic inquiry (through street interviews, microphone in hand), about which cinema they wanted to see the citizens of Morocco in the 70s, because, clearly, their opinion sounded less fearful, and, therefore, more free.
“We want to create a genuine Moroccan cinema”, affirmed these militant filmmakers, who looked at themselves in the mirror of the masters of the genre in Latin America, their contemporaries of struggles, aesthetic sleeplessness and wild destinies of torture, prison and death.
Fortunately, the Maghreb has the grandsons and granddaughters left, to begin to unblock the memory
Essafi collects concert footage and fictional film scenes, endowing them with the truth that can be glimpsed in perspective. Thus, it lets the members of some militant cells who lived clandestinely in large cities speak off and had to renounce the shelter of family life (incorporating, with pain, the misunderstanding and suffering of their own), for a revolutionary cause that made them feel isolated, unrepresented and dissonant, apart from popular deeds such as the famous Green March, for which the then King Hassan II encouraged all national voices to express themselves “in unison”.
Circumventing the persecution did not seem like an easy mission in the Maghreb, although those who dared to answer, in the 70s, believed that anything was possible, even “dreaming of the Republic” or filming delusional scenes of dreamy women fanning rugs with the face of Karl Marx. They paid dearly for their daring, by the way. Now, the Essafi film is a thanks to art that does not ignore its people and a tribute to commitment, beyond the mistakes made.
For her part, the young French filmmaker and actress Lina Soualem also pays tribute, in this case, to her grandparents, Algerian emigrants who were part of that North African exodus to rebuild France after World War II. He does it with a small and immense film called Leur Algérie (His Algeria).
From the marital separation that his grandmother decides, at 81 years old, Soualem begins a dialogue, with both, about that country to which they never returned and about which they hardly spoke to him. It is difficult for the director to get someone out of her silence, but perhaps some gestures will help her uncover that place closed by the obligations of bread.
The flashbackThis documentary takes her to review the filming of the migrant family, in which she appears as a child, to continue asking questions and to travel, to find out where these people who have worked for half a century on the assembly lines of European factories came from without hardly opening mouth.
Soualem discovers those other repressions, beyond the whips, that barely had an escape valve in the community they belonged to. Fortunately, the Maghreb still has the grandchildren and the granddaughters, to begin to unblock the memory. The neighbors are grateful.