ATwith the miniseries Confidential Algiers*, Abdel Raouf Dafri signs the adaptation of the very documented book Peace to their arms by German author Oliver Bottini. It is about a heavy order of weapons of war between Algeria and Germany which turns to the balance of power between Algerian generals, secret services, investigators and governments of the two countries. In question, the kidnapping of two Germans, visiting Algiers, by a mysterious secret political group opposed to the regime in place.
As expected, Abdel Raouf Dafri’s breathless text wonderfully explores the intricacies of Algerian contradictions. It’s all there: the relationship to power, to freedom, to the family, to the people, to independence, to religion… An explosive cocktail served up by piquant replies. The plot is boosted by the rhythmic production of Frédéric Jardin, a fine connoisseur of the Dafri style, who manages to accelerate the tension crescendo, until the particularly successful last episode.
Who are Abdel Raouf Dafri and Sofiane Zermani?
Abdel Raouf Dafri, 57, is the screenwriter of the cult film a prophetCésar Award for Best Original Screenplay, Diptych Mesrine or even the last seasons of the series braquo on Canal+. He wrote and directed in early 2020 Only an impure bloodhis first feature film, which he devoted to the Algerian war, the subject at the heart of his work.
Sofiane Zermani, alias “Fianso”, 35, became famous thanks to his numerous rap albums crowned with platinum and gold awards. Producer of very popular young artists such as Soolking, Heuss l’Enfoiré, successful businessman, he recently stood out as an actor in films enemy brothers and The Savages, but also on the boards, notably at the Châtelet theater where, from February 16 to 20, he will play in Gatsby the magnificent, produced by France Culture. As many facets as he chose to assume in his last album The direction.
Before filming the miniseries Confidential Algiers, Abdel Raouf Dafri and Sofiane Zermani did not know each other. The real artistic and human “coup de coeur” that has taken place leads them to never leave each other and to multiply common projects. At their table bursts of laughter and debates collide on different subjects such as Algeria, French cinema, the power of art against prejudice, etc.
For and with Le Point Afrique, they agreed to discuss their meeting through the miniseries Confidential Algiers but also on Algeria and what it carries for them.
The Africa Point: Abdel Raouf Dafri, after directing your first feature film, Only an impure blood, on the war in Algeria, you are back with a mini-series on the arms business between Algeria and, unexpectedly, Germany. How did you come to this project?
Abdel Raouf Dafri: It’s simple, my agent offered me to adapt Oliver Bottini’s bestseller for Arte. I found in this book all my obsessions: my view of Algeria, the land of my parents, through a fabulous plot. And I learned amazing things about the mainly military-industrial relations between Germany and Algeria. Algeria is potentially its best customer, ultra-VIP. In my research, I learned, for example, that in 2014 Germany opened assembly plants for military all-terrain vehicles 400 km from Algiers… while the people need much more. . Oliver Bottini has built a story where several generations mingle with a look at Algerians and Algerian women, a look that is neither caricatural, nor westernized, nor paternalistic. How a German could so well hit what is the mind of the Algerian leaders? It is because it resembles that of the Germans, they are pragmatists.
And you, Sofiane Zermani, how did you join this project?
Sofiane Zermani: I enter through a request from the producer and director Frédéric Jardin. In general, I am more guided by the encounters, the humans who embody the subjects, than by anything else. But, in reality, the subject appealed to me immediately. I was also concretely very flattered to play Dafri!
This is the first time that I have played the game of a political statement. For once, I was completely in phase. Why ? Because I found the right tone. I liked putting myself in the shoes of Sadek Tadjer. This character has no ambiguity. He is clear in what he is trying to prevent and what he is trying to do.
In my generation, we idealized Algeria. For us, it was the moon. And we have reached an age, or at least a lucidity, which allows us to look at the country of our parents through facts and concrete elements. With Abdel Raouf Dafri, we don’t always agree, but the truth is that I love his way of being straight in his pumps. I like that he, with all his culture, affirms: “Algeria is the country of my parents; I am french. »
Interesting to compare your two generations, your two visions of Algeria…
ARD: It must be understood that the Algerian people have gorged their own land with their blood and that, however, they remain attached to it and sublimate it. The love Algerians have for their country and their flag is a blind love that fascinates me. But my mother, who raised me well, told me one thing very clearly when I was little. “I was born Algerian and I will die Algerian. You, you were born French, you will die French. For a very long time, I rebelled against all the French of Algerian origin like me who went on vacation for two months in Algeria without sharing the sufferings of the people all year round. Then they came back here and suddenly declared themselves Algerian before being French.
SZ: Me, I can be proud to be also from the country of my parents, to be Algerian. I have a family very marked by the history of this country and this war. Yes, I’m a son of a chouhada (martyr), a grandson of a chouhada… But I’m also from this generation that endures Algeria without really knowing it in truth. And in addition we sometimes allow ourselves to have positions, to criticize the power or the decisions taken or a story.
But, in reality, what is our legitimacy? I produce Soolking, an Algerian artist who is, I think, the greatest standard bearer of the Algerian diaspora in the world today. He takes no political position today because he is aware of his influence and his responsibility. But when he writes “Freedom” and it becomes the song of the hirak, he is in his place. Soolking can talk to me about the hours of his adolescence, his youth spent in Algeria, his position against Bouteflika’s fourth term… But I can talk to him much more easily about the Chirac years, the Sarkozy years, the riots of 2005 in Seine-Saint-Denis only Bouteflika years.
Abdel Raouf Dafri, you have always imposed a right of scrutiny on the actors who embody your scenarios. It seems that Sofiane Zermani’s performances won you over.
ARD: If I became a screenwriter, it’s because I couldn’t stand the socialist, paternalistic, neocolonialist vision of French people of North African origin. Until I come with a prophetthe Arabs and the Blacks always had a white man to show them the way.
What I am looking for ? People marked by social determinism. I want them to breathe the street, to be very intelligent and very talented. That they feel French while respecting the heritage of their parents. And I had a monstrous bowl to meet Sofiane Zermani (laughs). I saw in him an intelligence both in the living room and in the street. This mixture that we find in American artists like Jay Z, Denzel Washington, who left the ghetto but who kept the smell of liquid concrete in the street.
Sofiane Zermani, you greatly admire the work of Abdel Raouf Dafri. What he says about you is very flattering!
SZ: Yes ! I refused everything I refused and waited everything I waited for it to happen. I have a huge chance to play on a screenplay by Abdel Raouf Dafri and a production by Frédéric Jardin.
In reality, I just tried to live up to the call of the Champions League and I consider myself very lucky! Beyond the job, the works, there is really a meeting with Abdel, a human and fusional thing that has been happening for a few months, even a year. A crush, that’s for sure.
This meeting gave rise to several ongoing projects. Can you tell us about it?
ARD: I am developing a series called The Authentic. It is produced by Marc Missonnier. This is the true story of two guys from Aubervilliers who were part of a group of friends where fraternity is not an empty word. In the 1980s, they stole artwork for the Japanese mafia. To recover an unpaid debt, they robbed an armored van in Tokyo… A woman pursuing them will bring down two of them: Nordine and Philippe, known as Gros Phiphi. Sofiane will be Nordine. They have already seen each other, and I was very reassured to see that it was once again a strong and human meeting!
Sofiane Zermani, chance makes that the day of the broadcast of the miniseries Confidential Algiers on Arte.tv on February 16, you will be on the stage at the Théâtre du Châtelet to replay Gatsby the magnificentafter the success in Avignon.
SZ: Yes, it’s a France Culture production under the musical direction of Issam Krimi. I could sign three albums, laugh, say that the “city is hot”. I can’t stick to what is expected of me. I expect way too much of myself actually. Being alone in front of people, regardless of the field, helps me a lot. Sharing with the public is what thrills me. If you have the humility that goes with it, the self-sacrifice, the work time, the concentration, whatever the performance of the artist, something natural always happens.
Abdel Raouf Dafri, you must have liked this passage through the theater…
ARD: It is a risk taking that we do not imagine. It doesn’t make a lot of money, it takes three times as much work and you can’t fake it. This requires commando discipline. If we deviate three centimeters, we take the ball. A lot of actors play on their nature and on the fact that we can redo the takes. That doesn’t make them, in my eyes, real actors. Sofiane Zermani, and I’m so happy about it, is a theater actor. All the great American actors, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro… and the list goes on, have all been on stage.
Exactly, Sofiane Zermani, we often praise your work force, your involvement in all your projects…
SZ: I experienced it with school and in quite a few contexts of my life… There is a category of people who, in life, will provide two to three times the work of others to have things like the others. So, people will say to me “but it’s unfair”! OK, but once it’s digested, accepted, understood, you say to yourself: “I’m going to do twice, three times more and I’m going to be the best. » For example, when I arrive on gatsby in Avignon in 2018, it’s basically a reading, not a play. But I put such pressure on myself that I learned the text by heart. Suddenly, the reading turned into a play! This phase of work is painful, but when it is over, you really start to like it. And there, I completely forget myself on stage.
* The miniseries “Confidential Algiers” is on Arte.tv from February 16 and is broadcast on Arte on February 17 at 8:55 p.m.