[CRITICAL] CHOUF

CHOUF is a dive to dizzying heights in the heart of the drug trafficking in the Northern districts of Marseille, which is deeply rooted in the news. The director Karim Dridi, who lives in Marseille for 20 years, offers a powerful look and without concession on this youth sacrificed, living in poverty and exclusion the causes of delinquency. CHOUF, means “to look” in Arabic, and it is also the name given to the watchers of the networks of drug posted on the buildings, reminding the indians who waited in the western.

It is embedded by the emotions that emerge from this tragic destiny of the hero Sofiane (Sofian Khammes). In the aim of wanting to make his grief and avenge his brother’s death, we see it pass in spite of him of the status of the student on vacation to one of the dealer involved. Sofiane finds himself suspended between two worlds : one rooted in a reality-to-earth yet wild and animal, and the one promised to the stars thanks to the studies and the theatre is her friend Najette (Naila Harzoune, cross Made in France of Nicolas Boukhrief). The strength of CHOUF is to show a hero caught in a vicious circle, and who will discover the fear, the doubts and shame. We see his personal struggle to not give in to its part dark, his reluctance to dwell in the evil and become like the other, a killer. His humanity, his education, his ethics will be his weapons.

Many forces of nature are summoned and put to the test in the band led by the dealer near guru Reda (Foued Nabba) : trust, pride, respect, courage. Allegiance to him are his lieutenants, Rachid (Osama Abdu Aal), Hammer (Zine Darar) or Gatô (Foziwa Mahamed), cold in the back. The director has very well seized of all the elements that make up the balance of power in such an organization : the intimidation, the seizure of power, reward, humiliation, punishment, eviction and killing. How not to compare this gratuitous violence and its control, cash at the Godfather of Francis Ford Coppola or The Master of Paul Thomas Anderson ? But more than cinematic references of the western, of the polar or of the tragedies of Greek and shakespearean, Karim Dridi is today his sources of inspiration in reality. He acknowledges, however, a interest for the series The Wire , created in 2002 by David Simon.

CHOUF perfectly describes a behavior and an instinct animal of these young uninhibited, like wolves in a pack. Their gestures, their manner to evolve in the space, to touch, take by the throat, and the nape of the neck to occupy a very important place in the film. The director, who we met in Bordeaux, said to have worked in workshops for two years with the actors castés among 1500 young people in the community. He observed their expressions, their codes, and their attitude. He even used the psychological aspects of certain actors, such as the hierarchical relationship that actually exists between the performers of the ” two R’s “. The language of the street in marseille is also very specific : a mix of Arabic words, gypsies, comoriens, verlans, to which is added a patois of provence. And it is true that sometimes it’s hard to grasp everything, and Karim Dridi, who had planned to subtitle CHOUF, has ultimately not done out of respect for the young people.

”The film is a dive breathtaking, powerful and overwhelming, at the heart of drug trafficking in the Northern districts of Marseille”

One is amazed by the realism of CHOUF, which is strengthened by the fact that none of the male performers is not an actor, except Sofian Khammes that comes out of the Conservatory and that it is the first major role. They have learned the game of the actor in famous workshops, but their presence to all, without exception, is extremely strong, and their charisma undeniable. The staging is powerful. The director alternates between several types of scenes and distance of the camera, to ensure that the voltage and the time of breathing of the viewer. The most significant moments are those that are filming the eyes of the protagonists. The scenes outside-the-fields also leave the viewer free to imagine the horror of the drama. Littered on the shoulders of Sofiane, as could be those of Eddie in I am not a bastard of Emmanuel Finkiel, we feel an empathy immediately.

The scenes of the heights of the city, which reinforce the idea of the confinement of young people in the city, are beautiful but also very violent. The director has also given a lot of importance to the staging of the sound. The soundtrack is composed by Chkrrr and the rap from the credits by singer Casey- that the director considers as the greatest poet of france. Thus, the scenes of life in the neighborhoods of drug dealers and their family environment will no longer have secrets to the viewer. Parents who have resigned who were let go, maintained by the money of their son. Little brothers and sisters who see it all : kalashnikov in the rooms for the preparations of the strips of pot, passing the settlements of accounts. Nothing is spared… how could they contemplate a different world from the bondage, prison or death ? The social environment is not at rest, since in this area of non-right, there is no more educator support. For the very few cops present, they are crooked or are caillasser.

Karim Dridi pose this situation to look very black and even terrifying. The despondency felt at the end of CHOUF returns inevitably mirrored in the intense and emphatic Divine of Houda benyamina l released a month earlier, as Karim Dridi has not seen. As the filmmaker, we asked him what response to make to those who might find his film, desperate (read the interview HERE). What the director is hopeless, he is living in a nightmare and to hear the political talk. He thinks that his film is ultimately nothing next to what’s happening in Aleppo in Syria. On the contrary, he is happy that such a film could still be done in France, and that, beyond the number of deaths reported by the media, the public will have the opportunity to cross a human adventure and into a world that he does not know. And it is true that the encounter with this world, such a western, modern, is deeply moving.

Sylvie-Noelle

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