• Ciné + competition



Yosr Gasmi,

Mauro Mazzocchi

A long sequence follows Laly as he drifts through Paris, hoodie up. His steps are unhurried in the Metro, setting his sad slowness – a representation of his solitude – against the rapid bustle of busy people. Anonymous in the crowds, he’s one of the thousands of migrants seeking a better life who reach Europe, fleeing war, dictatorships and ecological disasters. Like Laly, Abderahmane is an asylum seeker, waiting for a decision about his fate. “You’re not telling us the way we want to hear it” warns an administrative employee in Italy. For both of them, the outcome of their asylum claim partly depends on their personal tales and a journey that matches expectations, and proof both objective and arbitrary. The film very soon abandons a strictly documentary approach and the risk of being trapped by words; instead it chooses to affect our perceptions. Geology of Separation is an elegy that adds to the two protagonists’ destiny the sumptuous immensity of the landscapes they’ve crossed and the incantations in Arabic of a time when the continents formed a single entity. The two filmmakers carve out blocks of time and poetry from reality in a sober black and white that takes us back to a form of blindness. Here, the sublime landscapes are a kind of “peaceful horror”, horror inexorably established by the editing that sets the cold workings of the administration against the vulnerable faces and serious gazes of Laly and Abderahmane, pointing the finger at the North’s responsibilities towards the South, Europe’s responsibilities towards its former colonies. Europe that, not knowing what to do about distress, all too often chooses to turn away.

Claire Lasolle

What inspired your second film, Geology of Separation, after Je veux devenir fou, fou furieux (I want to go mad, raving mad) in 2016?

A striking image: after the snow had melted in the summer, the discovery of the bodies of migrants who’d died trying to cross the Alpine passes in the Piedmont region, which separate Italy and France. 

How did you meet Abderahmane and Laly in the Cosio Valtellino centre, and why did you decide to follow them in particular?  

Abderahmane and Laly approached us. First Abderahmane, after an initial presentation meeting at the centre. He was pleased to be able to talk to someone in Arabic (Tunisian-Libyan) at last – he’d spent the first months in terrible solitude as he doesn’t speak Italian, French or English. The second day, Laly asked us questions about why we were there. Both of them were suffering from extreme solitude. Over the next weeks and months, there were other encounters, other people came to talk to us, but the final editing was faithful to these two initial encounters. They were both incredibly generous and kind. What’s more, there was a natural harmony between their rhythms and ours. Laly’s walk, his pace, for example… 

Geology of Separation tells the story of the asylum process, and also evokes the myth of Pangaea. What dimension did this take on when writing the film? 

In this film, updating the scientific myth of Pangaea – an extraordinary scientific theory –fulfils the need to bring to light, almost geologically, what’s hidden behind the bureaucratic procedures that administer living things and prevent the creation of relationships to understand the world beyond the institution and its corollary names. It involves another possibility of connecting with the earth, with movement. The image of Pangaea is precisely that, the unified earth. A second need this updating fulfils was to hijack the media’s use of migration, to subvert it almost, by trying to destroy the ephemeral flow of information and its consumption by viewers. Mythology makes it possible to reintegrate this contemporary tragedy – it’s not about ‘news’ but something else… 

Geology of Separation is divided up into several titled parts that respond to each other. What was its structure? 

It’s actually a geological structure, strata that respond to each other, as you say. Often in geology, a separation phenomenon is linked to orogenesis, i.e. the birth of a new relief, a mountain or a different shape.  

What were your aims in including extracts from conferences by the philosophers Jean-Christophe Goddard and Elsa Dorlin?

There were many aims but here we can say that the geological structure is also an attempt at genealogy – the genealogy and geology of morality, as woven by the Nietzsche-Deleuze-Guattari constellation. Things didn’t happen by accident, there’s a whole history in the substructure that’s never stopped declaring human rights while at the same time flouting them in other lands and seas. Where do today’s repressive migration measures and policies come from? There are other questions that are not presented clearly. In any case, it’s important to grasp the discourses. The speeches by Jean-Christophe Goddard and Elsa Dorlin, and the nature of their work, which includes counter-anthropology, take a close look at the relationship between what we call the global North and the global South. 

What resonance did you want to give to the dance performance Psaumes #2 – Happi, la tristesse du roi by Heddy Maalem with James Carlès? 

His work and his presence are extraordinary; as spectators, we were moved when we discovered this performance. Beyond that, there was a miraculous “resonance” between the text and this scene, a mystery that emerged during the editing thanks to the music and thanks to him. The result is powerful, and it’s visible right down to the folds of the mountains: the buried image we guess at, the history we guess at, what’s archived underneath. Resonance, in fact – it rhythmically ties and unties everything.  

Geology of Separation was mostly shot digitally, but sometimes on film. Why the passages in 16mm? 

In this film, using it makes it possible to link up the breaks and differentiations in constructing a memoir, but also the vertical image-sound relations. 

Why did you choose to shoot in black and white, with long sequence-shots?  

Obviously, we could talk a lot about the duration, an economy of action and also the distance generated by black and white… It’s possible to explain in theory, but in reality… for us, there’s no other way to make films. It was the same for our first film. We sometimes wonder if we choose a style, or if it imposes itself on us. 

Interview by Olivier Pierre


  • Ciné + competition
20:456 July 2023Artplexe 2TICKETS
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13:309 July 2023Variétés 1TICKETS

Technical sheet

France, Tunisia, Italy, Qatar / 2022 / 152’

Rights holder
L’Argent, société de production