If we look up the word “benevolent” in a dictionary, we might be surprised to find a picture of honorary citizen by Mohamed Hamidi, discovered at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival. The director of born somewhere sends a writer out of inspiration, played by Kad Merad, back to the small Algerian village of his childhood where he is honored after having received the Nobel Prize.
“He will discover that things have changed a lot in thirty-five years, confides the filmmaker to 20 minutes. This will allow him to rediscover his roots and his enthusiasm. The novelist meets endearing Algerians embodied by Fatsah Bouyahmed (The cow), Oulaya Amamra (divine), Brahim Bouhlel (Valid) and even Jamel Debbouze during a tasty appearance. These meetings are beneficial for all.
A nuanced return
“Our hero has somewhat forgotten where he came from, although he was largely inspired by his past to write his books, explains Mohamed Hamidi. This trip allows him to reconcile the Algeria of yesterday and that of today. This tender comedy is much less fierce than the honorary citizen (2016) by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat from which the film is freely inspired. “I didn’t want to be mean to anyone, insists the director. I believe that viewers need gentleness more than ferocity these days. This does not prevent him from revealing to what extent Algerian youth, especially women, must struggle to make their voices heard in a misogynistic and corrupt country.
“ honorary citizen is both the portrait of a man who has lost his way and a painting of a country that is looking for itself”, adds the director. We laugh heartily when the novelist is driven around his village in a truck or when he has to manage a herd of sheep that blocks his car. But the laughter is choked in the face of the mafia pressures he is subjected to or when he finds a childhood friend who reminds him of his student struggles.
“I think the film can interest all generations of viewers insofar as it deals with subjects that speak to all ages”, insists the filmmaker. A universal theme, the family in all its forms is at the center of this honorary citizen which confirms how much Mohamed Hamidi knows how to love and make people love his characters.