• Flash Competition  
  • Renaud Victor Award


Dania Reymond-Boughenou

Dania Reymond Boughenou
As an opening, we slowly approach an urban area from above, in an aerial view of unremarkable apartment blocks sparkling in the quiet of the night. Next is the same city in the daytime, looking hollowed-out. A sweet sidestep, such is Dania Reymond-Boughenou’s challenging approach as she films the Rougière, a neighborhood in Marseille, beyond the predictable clichés, the social unrest and the picturesque. She aims at filming what is never shown, at capturing what makes the density and the flesh of the place, and at conveying the spirit that enlivens it. Off-screen, we can hear a succession of old memories shared by the inhabitants, like this woman who remembers the shock she felt when she arrived from Algeria, or that man who recalls slices of life from his childhood. Their stories accompany the slow descent of words and memories towards the bodies that we can finally see and hear, at human height. Dania Reymond-Boughenou sets out, in slight touches and successive layers, to film the invisible, like vibrating waves echoing the violence of the stories that are shared, alongside major developments in History – war in Algeria, AIDS in the 80’s, or lately the devastating effects of drugs. These are vibrating presences, like the wind shaking tree foliage as shown in long, hypnotic and caressing tracking shots. Paying no heed to film genres, mixing time lines, indulging in fantasy, the director thwarts codes and shifts assignments. With unexpected lyricism, carried by discreet and melancholic musical surges, she endeavours to loosen and link up bodies and voices, to make what happened palpable. To give body to a haunted world and, as indicated by the constellation in the film’s title, to shine a light on the voids and the missing, whose pale light illuminates the place.
(Nicolas Feodoroff)

Interview with Dania Reymond-Boughenou

We have already seen some of your films at FID. Your latest film, Constellation de la Rouguière, was commissioned for Manifesta, the international biennial of contemporary art, held in 2020. How did the project come about ?
The idea for the film arose prior to Manifesta when I met one of its future producers, Karina Bianchi. She had liked my previous medium-length film, Le jardin d’essai, which was shot in Algiers. We talked informally about our ties to Algeria and our desire to work together. When I saw Manifesta’s call for projects a year later, I thought about her again. So, everything started with a simple discussion which sowed the seeds of a desire to make a film touching on intimate questions we shared. These were questions I wanted to explore with the inhabitants of La Rouguière.

Why did you choose La Rouguière ?
This estate has a special history. Its construction was completed in 1962 just as Marseille was contending with the huge and fairly unexpected arrival of repatriates from Algeria. They were rehoused as a matter of urgency. Different waves of immigration followed, for example that of Algerian economic migrants. The area was completely new, surrounded by countryside, and left a striking impression on some of the first inhabitants, of arriving on virgin territory at the edge of Marseille. But it was only a feeling, because they were well and truly in France with their memories of the war, of the lives they had left behind them, of the “other side” that they left in often tragic circumstances. I was curious to discover how this memory became inscribed in the place where they were coming to start their lives over again, together.

You have worked from the stories you gathered and called on actors to portray the inhabitants, thereby turning your back on direct cinema. Can you comment on your writing choices and describe your method ? How was the script developed ?
I worked from the stories I collected, but the inhabitants don’t feature in the film because they didn’t want to. However, they wanted to bear witness—they had things to say. So the work began with a very important listening process. The people onscreen are all actors. The testimonies have been used in a raw way as voice-overs but were also rewritten. The unabashed use of fiction does not conflict with the documentary tone. Each enriches rather than opposes the other. The same applies to the actors. They play fictional roles but are all personally concerned by Franco-Algerian history. This is something we all had in common, even if each experience is unique. As for the method, it became clearer as I went along. I wanted to go against the classical process of screenwriting and for each decision to be imposed by my encounters in real life, which had to remain the prerequisite. That’s how I discovered the tragic history of the estate in the 80s with the huge influx of drugs and AIDS. After this first phase of listening, I felt that the question of loss was important because it resonated twice in this place, almost endemically: there was the loss of Algeria and the loss of those who died from AIDS. It was at this point that it seemed to me that direct cinema would no longer be of much help and that I needed to find other means of conveying this underground and invisible reality. Fiction and fantasy imposed themselves and the actors became the relays of this slice of buried memory. But when they arrived, I had no text to give them, just a few testimonies. In preparation, I organized a family constellation workshop in which they took part with constellator Rita Leombruni. Thanks to this method of systemic therapy, we were able to explore the way in which Franco-Algerian history resonated for us and to summon the emotional traces left by historical and family events. Family constellations make me think of a very archaic form of theatre, where we ask others to play our family members and ancestors for us. In this reconstructed space, the dead have the same status as the living, and we can exchange with them. After this rather intense session, I had one week left to write the dialogues from the testimonies and the constellation, and to compose the architecture of the film tracing this journey.

The estate seems deserted. What was the film shoot like ?
We shot very quickly, over three days to be precise, for economic reasons. I envisaged the shoot as a way of condensing all the work done beforehand. It was a question of staging this oral and emotional material that had been elicited and collected. As for the desert, it was not a conscious choice on my part, but it is not an insignificant one either. The drone shots were all taken in the morning at dawn in order to have night shots. The estate was still half asleep. It was the right moment for the film, an in-between time. It is also the hour of recollection, of dreams, of memory. And the question of the desert is significant. The void has meaning—it is the void left by the disappeared. This desert is populated. Anis’ gaze in the last shot is turned towards these people. This gaze was important to me.

You mention the drone, a surveillance tool as well as a leisure accessory, which you use extensively. How did you come to use it ?
In the context of my film, the drone enables a mental and memorial cartography of the neighbourhood from the moment the voice-over testimonies and music are added. Using these images wouldn’t have made sense for me without the words of the inhabitants. I needed long enough sequences to accompany these words and let them unfold. The drone also makes it possible to introduce a sense of fantasy, as its point of view is not really that of a subject—it is strictly supernatural. It was also used for very mundane reasons: with a small budget, I was able to quickly obtain many shots of the area.

Interview by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • Flash Competition  
  • Renaud Victor Award

Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 31’

Original Version : Algerian Arabic, French.
Subtitles : English, French.
Script : Dania Reymond-Boughenou.
Photography : Julien Guillery.
Editing : Dania Reymond-Boughenou.
Sound : Julian Sanchez-Moreno.
Casting : Amel Hanifi, Hannil Ghilas, Youcef Guendouzi, Marie Fabre, Nader Soufi, Abdelkarim Douima, Khalida Azaom.
Production : Karina Bianchi (Cinémas du sud et Tilt), Annabelle Bouzom (Les films de l’autre cougar). Distribution : Annabelle Bouzom (Les films de l’autre cougar).
Filmography : Les tempêtes, 2021. Le jardin d’essai, 2016. La tempête, 2016. Paysages empruntés #2, 2013. Greenland unrealised, 2012. Jeanne, 2011. Paysages empruntés #1, 2011.