Tue Dec 16,2008

Rachid Bouchareb Paved the Way for French-Algerian and Arab filmmakers with Strong, ‘Forgotten’ Stories

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) will honour French-Algerian author and filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb at a special ceremony on December 18, in recognition of his long and illustrious cinema career.

Bouchareb has been a force behind many of the films from the Arab world that have received international attention,  including his own Indigenes—which screened at DIFF 2006—and West Beyrouth, which Bouchareb produced, gaining international acclaim for director Ziad Doueiri.

DIFF’s Artistic Director and Director General of the Competition, Masoud Amralla al Ali, said: “Rachid Bouchareb has been instrumental in showcasing forgotten stories and overlooked points of view on the world stage. His skill as a filmmaker is matched by his endless curiosity and relentlessly realist gaze, stripping away layers of myth and obstructive stereotypes in a bid to depict the humanity of his subjects.  Moreover, he has helped many younger filmmakers in the Arab world, whether directly as a producer or through his inspiring example. It is an honour to be able to recognize him with this award at DIFF 2008.”

Indigenes explored the nearly-forgotten history of Algerian soldiers in the French Army who fought against Nazism in World War II. The film was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar (his second film to do so, following 1995’s Dust of Life), and won several awards at Cannes.

Bouchareb’s films deal with the themes of alienation, identity and homeland, mainly, but not exclusively, through the experience of Algerian immigrants, such as Indigenes and his 1991 film Cheb,  which won the Perspectives du Cinema award at Cannes. The story depicts a man of Algerian origin, born in France but forced to go ‘back’ to Algeria,  and his subsequent struggle to belong in either place. L´Honneur de ma Famille (The Honour of My Family) (1997) viewed the conflict of generations in a family of immigrants through a young girl’s unplanned pregnancy.

Little Senegal (2000), nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlinale, took the themes in an unconventional direction, dealing with the clash between African and Africa-American values in the story of a young African man who follows his family tree to the United States.

Bouchareb also produced the Iraqi film Niloofar,  which screens at DIFF 2008. The film depicts the title character, a 13-year old girl, who wants more than anything else to study, but must do so in disguise as the village where she lives is against educating girls. Niloofar disguises herself until the inevitable happens and she becomes a woman.

Three outstanding contributors to international film are honoured each year in the DIFF Lifetime Achievement Awards. In 2008, they will be Rachid Bouchareb, Tsui Hark and Terry Gilliam.

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