The preview of feature film “Heliopolis” by Djaafar Gacem, based on historical facts, was presented Wednesday, in Algiers, to a large audience obliged to strictly respect the prevention measures against the spread of the Coronavirus.
Produced by the Centre Algérien de Développement du Cinéma (CADC), with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Arts, the movie was presented at the Algiers Opera Boualem-Bessaïh, in the presence of the Minister of Culture and Arts, Malika Bendouda and several of her colleagues, members of the government.
Screened on the double occasion of the celebration of the Student’s Day, which coincides with the 19th of May every year, and its release, scheduled for the 20th of this month, in all Algerian cinemas, “Heliopolis” goes back to the background of the demonstrations of the 8th of May 1945 after the end of the Second World War, recalling the exactions and massacres perpetrated by the colonial France against the Algerian civilian population.
The 116-minute film, inspired by historical events in Algeria in the 1940s, depicts the differences of opinion in the society of yesteryear, through Mokdad Zenati, son of “Gaïd”, an assimilationist who was in favour of rapprochement with colonial France and owner of agricultural land in the village of Héliopolis in Guelma (eastern Algeria), and “Mahfoud”, his son, with anti-colonial and independence ideas, advocated by the political current of the “Friends of the Freedom Manifesto” (AML) of Ferhat Abbas, which he joined, thus concluding the break with his father.
Imprisoned for having participated in the organization of demonstrations, Mahfoud, played by Mehdi Ramdani, is executed with his comrades in front of the powerless and devastated gaze of his father, played by Aziz Boukrouni, who then decides to return to his property and take his rifle to defend himself against the French militia.
The audience, having interacted with the film for a long time by applauding some of its scenes illustrating the patriotism of Algerians and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the independence of their country, thanked Djaâfar Gacem and all his staff, who went on stage at the end of the screening, with a long standing ovation, “youyous” and “Bravos” which burst out from the hall.
This first feature film by Djaffar Gacem features not only French actors who could not make the trip, but also a host of Algerian actors, including Aziz Boukrouni, Mehdi Ramdani, Souhila Maalem, Mourad Oudjit, Mohamed Frimehdi, Nasreddine Djoudi and Fodhil Assoul, who were mostly present at the Algiers Opera.
According to the director, the film “had been ready since March 2020”, but its screening had been postponed several times by “producer” the CADC, for “obvious reasons” relating to prevention of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Several distinguished guests from the world of cinema and theatre also attended the screening of “Heliopolis”, including Sid Ahmed Agoumi, Madani Naâmoun and Rabah Lechea.
Within the same spirit of solidarity with Palestine and the battered people of Gaza expressed by Malika Bendouda through a scarf decorated with the Palestinian emblem that she wore, Souhila Mallem, declared in the name of all the artistic and technical staff who worked with Djaffar Gacem that the preview of “Heliopolis”, was “dedicated to Palestine and the people of Gaza” in particular.
Also a scriptwriter, Djaffar Gacem became famous through the direction of several successful sitcoms and TV series, such as Nass Mlah City 1, 2 and 3 (from 2002 to 2006), “liqae maâ El Qadar” (2007), “Djemai Family 1, 2 and 3” (from 2008 to 2011), “Qahwet Mimoun” (2012), “Dar El Bahdja” (2013), “Soltane Achour El Acher 1, 2 and 3” (from 2015 to 2018) and “Bouzid Days” (2016).
The feature-length fiction film “Heliopolis” has been nominated to represent Algeria at the Oscar for Best International Feature Film (non-English language film), organised by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).