Samir Guesmi, on behalf of the father

CINEMA – With Ibrahim, the 53-year-old actor goes on to direct and signs a successful first film, Valois de diamant for best film at the Angoulême festival. he describes a relationship between a father and his son, strongly inspired by his own family history.

In T-shirt and jeans, tall and supple, Samir Guesmi runs his hand over his head, he reflects. There, in the Parisian cinema lounge Le Panthéon. Under the watchful eye of Pascal Caucheteux who produced his first feature film, Ibrahim. This one obtained the Diamond Valois for best film at the last Francophone Film Festival of Angoulême, without counting those of the scenario, the direction and the music, signed Raphaël Eligoulachvili. He also received the Cannes 2020 Official Selection label. The honors do not turn the head of this son of Algerian immigrants, a cleaning mother and a construction worker father.

Ibrahim’s story had been close to his heart for a long time. The 53-year-old actor, from the theater – he notably played Othello – and noticed in the series Ghosts, had already approached it in a short film, It is Sunday, in 2008. The feature film allowed him to further develop the complicated relationship between a father (himself) and his son (Abdel Bendaher, formidable). The former dunce smiles almost embarrassed when asked. Yes, there is him in there. He grew up between six girls and two boys. Her father, who has now disappeared, was not easy to speak with, but her love for his offspring was noticeable.

“Just because you don’t have the words doesn’t mean you don’t have any life. There are also the acts, specifies Samir Guesmi. My father was tall, like me, hard-working, tough, extremely modest. I find modesty very cinematographic. It upsets me. ” The budding director, who has shot as an actor on several occasions under the direction of Bruno Podalydès, but also of Cédric Anger or Noémie Lvovsky, knew how to film her, this modesty. Ahmed, his character, is a tortoise shell in a brewery, he lives with his son Ibrahim in an HLM in 13e district of Paris. Each observes the other from afar, suppressing their feelings. Awkwardly.

Abdel was withdrawn, silent, attentive, his two friends did not stop talking. I was struck by his presence, his gaze. He arrived with his inexperience, but whole, without artifice, it is the embodiment of justice

Samir Guesmi

“The emotion is palpable, we hear even louder what we are hiding, continues the director, who dedicated his film to the late Solveig Anspach. He had played under the direction of the American-Icelandic director the excellent The aquatic effect. Like her, he is inspired by the personality of the actors. Abdel Bendaher is surrounded by Philippe Rebbot, Luàna Bajrami and rapper Rabah Naït Oufella (Between the walls, by Laurent Cantet). For Samir Guesmi, Ibrahim would not be what he is without his editor, Pauline Dairou, and therefore his producer. “Pascal Caucheteux had direct and frank feedback. The truth is not always easy to hear, observes the director. He has a distant view of things, he used to say to me sometimes : “It’s off topic.” It happens that the transplant does not take, you have your nose in the handlebars … “

Abdel Bendaher, then aged 16, had never made a film. Samir Guesmi spotted him as he stepped out of a football field with two friends. “I explained to them that I was looking for the hero of my first film. They took me for a cop at first!, he remembers, laughing. Abdel was withdrawn, silent, attentive, his two friends did not stop talking. I was struck by his presence, his gaze. He arrived with his inexperience, but whole, without artifice, it is the embodiment of justice. ” According to the director, the cast chosen, half of his work was done.

The beginner was listening: “I explained to him that this father was awkward and silent and that it wouldn’t be funny all the time, he was like, ‘I understand.’ It was simple, obvious. Every evening, I thanked him. ” An assistant made him repeat his text. Abdel Bendaher is on all fronts. “He had to be spared. After a week, he had become the team mascot ”, says Samir Guesmi. His “student” took a liking to the sets, he followed up with the comedy of Adeline Picault Did you catch? and recently the series The School of Life (France 2). As for his “master”, he thinks only of repeating the experience. “We accompany, we guide, we try to understand the actors, we cannot ask them something that we would not do.” Like Solveig Anspach, Samir Guesmi is benevolent.

Ibrahim, Drama by Samir Guesmi, with Abdel Bendaher, Samir Guesmi, Rabah Naït Oufella. Duration 1 hour 20 minutes


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