Rachid Bouchareb

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homeland, identity, myth, tradition
Film (feature film)
Europe, Western
created on:
May 21, 2003
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The distorting mirror of alienation

Born in Paris in 1953, Rachid Bouchareb is a successful author, director and producer. His films focus on the experience of alienation, on the search for identity and a homeland, and on the associated myths. For his second feature film ´Cheb´ (1991) Bouchareb won prizes including the prize ´Perspectives du Cinéma´ in Cannes. ´Little Senegal´ (2000) was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlinale.
Born in Paris in 1953, Rachid Bouchareb is an author, director and producer. His feature films are mainly about the question of alienation, as also about the search for identity and a home-country. He mostly views his themes from such an angle as to remove them from the domain of mythology. This is especially true of his latest film ´Little Senegal´ (2000). "I wished to make a film about the meeting between Africa and black America, while inverting the scheme of ´Roots´. The film was to be about an African who comes to the USA and discovers the gap between the two cultures," says Bouchareb about this film which he wrote, directed and produced.

´Little Senegal´ does not tell the stale tale of a black US-American in search of his roots in Africa. His protagonist Alloune is the tourist-guide in the museum of the notorious slave-island Gorée in front of Dakar - the place where American tourists mostly arrive. Following the trail of his forefathers, who were taken as slaves to North America, he passes through South Carolina to Little Senegal in New York before finally returning to Gorée.

Alloune traces his family-tree till finding Ida, a resolute woman of his own age, who is running a kiosk in Harlem and has no interest at all in her Afro-American roots. Her only concern is to survive and to drag her pregnant granddaughter out of the gutter. Two cultures collide: Alloune´s traditional African culture with its esteem for the family, and the Afro-American urban culture with its concern for survival of the fittest and its belief in its own superiority. Alloune soon realises that one black does not always equal another: "I wished to make a film about the wounding of Africa - about its wounds and its history," says Bouchareb, "and also to examine the situation in immigrant lands."

In ´Cheb / Flight from Africa´ (1991), too, Bouchareb looks through alien eyes at an alien land. Here, in showing Algeria with its wounds and history, he also reflects on his French homeland, where he was born as a child of Algerians.

The protagonist, the nineteen year-old Merwan, is the son of Algerian immigrants. Although he has grown up in France, he was born in Algeria, so one day he is sent back by the authorities. Merwan returns to his homeland as an alien and soon gets to know its brutality. His fellow nationals confiscate his passport and put him into the army. In the stuffy and prickly atmosphere of a barracks out in the desert, the native Algerians are merciless in having him feel the difference between them and him. As an immigrant in Algeria as in France, Merwan decides to leave the land where he is unwillingly staying, to return to a land which he unwillingly left.

With his girlfriend Malika he tries to flee from this stiff rule-ridden society, but his attempt is thwarted at the border. Finally with a forged passport he re-enters France, but there, too, he is put into army-service. "My first film ´Baton Rouge´ shows the strong pull of the United States and not of the Maghreb. At that time I didn´t feel myself to be directly confronted with my land of birth. I´m now focussing on the myth of return to the homeland - a myth which immigrants have always been living out. But in fact I´ve never returned with my family to Algeria and I never will. ´Cheb´ is about the clash between the myth of home-coming and the daily reality of life in Algeria."

´L´Honneuer de ma famille´ (1997) is about the conflict of generations in a family of immigrants. Nora has grown up under strict parents. Her family comes from Algeria, and her parents esteem the upholding of tradition. Nora has learnt a few sly ways of gaining a bit of freedom. She dreams of emigrating with her girlfriend to Goa and is earning the money secretly in a disco, but the plan fails to work out. She becomes pregnant and - worse still - from a Frenchman. She now has to find a father acceptable to her parents. In ´The Honour of my Family´ Bouchareb again questions clichés. Life in two cultures is shown as a grotesque masque, and none of the roles - not even that of the persecuted refugee - is quite what it seems to be.

´Poussières de vie / The Children of Saigon (1994) is based on the autobiographical novel ´La Colline du Fanta´ from Duyen Ahn. The film shows a drama from the days after American withdrawal from Vietnam. There is a terrifying re-education along socialist lines, and both victims and victimisers lose their humanity and dignity.

Events at the HKW:
Friday, 13th November, 1992
Films from the Maghreb

Organiser: House of World Cultures in collaboration with Kommunales Kino Freiburg

New Arabian Films /Arab
Filmfestival Carthage
Retrospective ´98

Saturday, 13th February, 1999
Wednesday, 17th February, 1999

Reception of Arabian Films in Germany and Europe / The Reception of Arab Cinema in Germany and Europe
Round Table
With: Bourlem Guerdjou (Algeria), Rachid Bouchareb (Algeria), Kalthoum Bornaz (Tunesia), Roschdy Zem (Algeria), Magda Wassef (Paris) und Ulrich Gregor (Berlin)
Moderation: Eberhard Spreng

Organiser: House of World Cultures
Author: Ulrich Jossner  


Rachid Bouchareb was born on 01 09 1953 near Paris. From 1977 to 1983 he worked as an assistant director for the French National Television Production Society S.F.P., then for the private television transmitters TF 1 and Antenne 2. At the same time he made his first short films. In 1985 he made his first full-length feature-film ´Bâton Rouge´, and in 1988 together with Jean Bréhat he founded the production firm 3:b. In 1991, for his second feature film ´Cheb´, he was awarded the Bronze Leopard in Locarno and the prize of ´Perspectives du Cinéma´ in Cannes. His latest film ´Little Senegal´ (2000) was nominated in Berlin for the Golden Bear.



Film / TV,

Le Vilain Petit Poussin

Film / TV,

Little Senegal

Film / TV,

L´Honneur de ma famille

Film / TV,

Poussière de vie

Film / TV,

Des années déchirées

Film / TV,


Film / TV,


Film / TV,

Bâton Rouge

Film / TV,

Peut-être la mer

Film / TV,

Le Banc

Film / TV,

La Pièce

Film / TV,

La Chute

Film / TV,