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Non-Aligned Film Archives 05: Tibelkachoutine (Mohamed Zinet)

The Non-Aligned Film Archives is an ongoing programme curated by researchers and archivists Léa Morin and Annabelle Aventurin in collaboration with Open City Documentary Festival. The project aims to create a space to share films that have been neglected and overlooked Рimportant works, many of which have been recently restored, that have been marginalised from dominant cinematic narratives. Each session revolves around a single lost work that is instead invoked through other films that have survived.

“This session takes as its focus an unreleased film –¬†Tibelkachoutine¬†– by Algerian filmmaker, director, and actor Mohamed Zinet (1932-1995). Zinet had planned to adapt his 1953 play of the same name but the project never came to fruition, and the three films included in the programme act together in an endeavour to reconstruct Zinet’s suppressed cinema. Zinet’s own masterpiece from 1971,¬†Tahia ya Didou!¬†– the only film he completed as a director – screens alongside films by Hassen Ferhani and Ren√© Vautier. As with many other Algerian filmmakers of his generation, Ferhani’s work is inspired by the acerbic and anti-authoritatian tone of¬†Tahia ya Didou!, whilst¬†Les Ajoncs¬†by the militant anti-colonial filmmaker Rene Vautier features Zinet in the central role.

With¬†Tibelkachoutine, Zinet aimed to present a “Chaplinesque” vision of the War of Independence, providing a comedic reflection on the idea that “anyone can become a hero, depending on the events and the situation.” This seemingly displeased the film authorities, particularly the heroes of the Algerian revolution, as noted by Tate Belkace in Khelfa Ben Aissa‘s 1990 book¬†Tahia ya Zinet!”

‚Äď L√©a Morin and Annabelle Aventurin

This screening will be introduced by Saad Chakali.

Tickets available here.


Programme

Tahia ya Didou! (Viva Didou!)
Mohamed Zinet, Algeria, 1972, 81 min

At once an elegy for Algiers and its people, a slapstick comedy, and a reflection on the legacy of the War of Independence, Tahia a Didou! remains an unclassifiable work. Mixing genres and filmic approaches, Zinet captures Algerian society in all its vibrance and its multiplicities. The film follows a French tourist couple on a visit to Algiers, where the man previously served in the army during the Algerian war. As they walk the city streets, Momo, a poet from the Casbah playing himself, punctuates their wandering with verse. Their trip takes a turn when the man recognises someone in a cafe whom he had tortured during his military service.

Rejected by the authorities, who had commissioned Zinet to make a tourist documentary about Algiers, the film became a cult hit, thanks in no small part to the Cin√©math√®que d’Alger and its director Boudjemaa Kar√®che, who programmed it regularly.

Les Ajoncs
René Vautier, France, 1970, 10 min

This short film by the militant French anti-colonial film-maker, René Vautier, is a poetic and comedic fable in which an Algerian immigrant, played by Mohamed Zinet, sells gorse in a small town in Brittany. His cart is overturned by a racist police officer. As he leaves the factory, female workers, in a show of solidarity, pick up the scattered flowers and buy them from him.

Tarzan, Don Quichotte et nous (Tarzan, Don Quixote and Us)
Hassen Ferhani, Algeria, France, 2013, 18 min

A stroll through the Cervantes district of Algiers, in search of the characters and stories that were born there: from Tarzan and Jane to Don Quixote, reality and fiction intertwine. The collective memory of a neighbourhood meets with the history of cinema. Fehrani’s short film, which could be described as Zinetian, is a blend of film-loving comedy and urban legend.


Mohamed Zinet (1932-1995) was an Algerian actor, film-maker and director. Zinet joined the liberation struggle during the War of Independence, was wounded in the maquis and sent to Tunis, where he helped create the FLN artistic troupe, which later became the Th√©√Ętre nationalalg√©rien. After training in Germany and France, he acted in plays by Kateb Yacine, Jean Genet and Ionesco, directed by Jean-Marie Serreau. In the cinema, he assisted Ennio Lorenzini (Les Mains Libres, 1965) and Gillo Pontecorvo (La Bataille d’Alger, 1965), and appeared in Sarah Maldoror’s Monagamb√©e (1970), and Ren√© Vautier’s Les Ajoncs and Les Trois cousins (1970). He wrote the play Tibelkachoutine (1953), which he adapted into a screenplay that was never filmed. From the 1970s onwards, he was also known for the often translucent roles he played as an “immigrant” in French cinema. Tahia ya Didou is his only film.

Saad Chakali is the author of three books published by L’Harmattan: Jean-Luc Godard dans la rel√®ve des archives du mal (2017), Humanit√© restante. Penser l’√©v√©nement avec la s√©rie ‚ÄėThe Leftovers‚Äô with Alexia Roux (2018) and Masques blancs, peau noire: Les visages de Watchmen de Damon Lindelof (2021). In 2020, he edited the volume of the journal √Čclipses dedicated to Agn√®s Varda and, in 2022, one devoted to John Carpenter. A speaker at the Franco-Algerian Cultural Days in Toulouse, the Rencontrescin√©matographiques de B√©ja√Įa in Algeria, the Gab√®s Cin√©ma Fen in Tunisia, the Ateliers Varan in Paris and a member of the Images en Biblioth√®ques national selection committee, Saad Chakali works at the √Čdouard-Glissant media library in Blanc-Mesnil in Seine-Saint-Denis.


Non-Aligned Film Archives

“Through screenings, interventions and meetings, we will try to consider possible tools, methodologies, alliances and actions for a movement of non-aligned film archives.

With international allies (venues, filmmakers, platforms) we will share a reflection and actions in favour of the preservation and circulation of a cinema in struggle against authoritarian narratives and models (colonial, state, capitalist, patriarchal, etc.), a cinema that struggles (or has struggled) to exist, and still struggles to be preserved, and not to be pushed to the margins of dominant histories.

Given our incomplete histories of cinema, what place can be accorded to unfinished, lost or non-existent films, to the fractured cinematographic journeys and the orphaned traces of a potential cinema that have been neglected by these dominant narratives? How can we approach and restore the desire for revolution carried by cinemas in struggle, when these images do not reach us?

Each session within this series will be an attempt to reconstruct, through screening programmes and our imaginations, some of the films that are absent from our histories of cinema. Documents will be shared to make this desired yet prevented cinema exist, so that we can take care of these torn and shattered narratives together by giving them a place. Collectives and archivists will be invited to talk about their work of political, aesthetic and cinematographic reconfiguration for the circulation of this marginalized cinema‚ÄĚ.

‚Äst L√©a Morin and Annabelle Aventurin

* In reference to the non-aligned political movement, a transnational and decolonial political project born in 1961 in Belgrade, a coalition of countries struggling against systems of economic, political and cultural domination.