Why should we discover this film in theaters at the start of the school year? Director Leyla Bouzid and her two sensual revelations, Zbeida Belhajamor and Sami Outalbali from the Sex Education series, talk to you about the challenges of their nugget film.
Quest for identity, confrontation of two cultures and educations, little-known poetic heritage, erotic initiation against a background of literature: A story of love and desire stages the spiritual and physical meeting of two students in Paris. One of Algerian origin, the other Tunisian; the first overwhelmed by his desire but trying to resist it, the second assuming his impulses and ready to share them.
Presented at the end of the Critics’ Week, Leyla Bouzid’s second feature has blown a wind of poetry and sensuality in Cannes this year. On Sunday August 29, he also received the Valois de Diamant, highest distinction of the 14th Angoulême Francophone Film Festival, while its main actor, Sami Outalbali, was awarded the Interpretation Prize.
On the Croisette in July, we met the talented young man spotted by Leyla Bouzid before he joined season 2 of Sex Education. He was surrounded by his director and the young “unsettling” revelation Zbeida Belhajamor.
Why should we go see this nugget of the re-entry in theaters? By highlighting their work, their desires and highlighting the strong themes of the film, the film crew gives you the keys.
The too rare story of sexual and sensual education from a young boy’s point of view
Leyla Bouzid, director: “I wanted to portray a shy young boy who opens up to the world, lives a sentimental, sexual, or rather sensual education. It’s something that is not told, which is a Little absent. There is indeed very little account of the young boys’ first times, of their restraint, their shyness. Or it was done in the form of a big comedy like 40 years old still virgin.
Being Tunisian myself and having grown up in Tunisia, this hero was for me necessarily of North African origin. Crystallized around this, the birth of the feeling of love with the discovery of literature. Ahmed has an inner resistance and I wanted to place myself in this quest for identity. I wanted him to face these texts and a culture that he ignored, and that it mixes with his restraint. “
I liked the idea of eroticizing the male body …
Sami Outalbali, actor: “I liked the distance that immediately existed between my character and myself. I liked her contradictions, her struggles and the way Leyla Bouzid showed them without settling them all, to leave some because that’s what life is. Even if we meet someone who changes us, we cannot change at all.
I loved Ahmed’s childhood, something that we don’t show enough. Yes, a young boy can meet a girl who is more open, very attentive to his desires, desires, who has never put up any barriers or has been intelligent enough to remove them. She educates and grows this young boy who comes from the city. “
Zbeida Belhajamor, actress: “The idea of eroticizing the male body spoke to me a lot at the beginning and then to show this contrast with the character of Farah, compared to Ahmed. That she be someone free, liberated who lives things intensely, who is fiery, compared to the reserved side of the hero. “
The desire to restore diversity within diversity in France
Leyla Bouzid : “Ahmed built his identity in a scheme which is the one we often construct in the suburbs of France. He has a problem of transmission, of roots, of origins, he could not go there, did not have His parents did not find their place in France and therefore did not have the time or the possibility to pass on their gaze on their identity. He thus assimilated received things.
He therefore finds himself facing a young Farah girl who is Tunisian and has no problem with that. The idea was to restore diversity within what is called diversity in France, by proposing two contradictory characters in their vision of this culture and their identity. “
Sami Outalbali : “The discrepancies, the things that separate us actually bring us closer. A very simple observation, applicable to everything. The prejudices that Ahmed has come from a lack of knowledge of his culture, linked to a lack of communication, here with his parents. There is a misplaced modesty which leads to ignorance, prejudice, withdrawal into oneself. This testifies to a true reality. “
A modern vision of the woman of North African origin
Zbeida Belhajamor : “Farah my character, feels that Ahmed wants her, she wants to go towards him but without pouncing on him because he is reserved. She goes through the desire to go towards the other, the envy of the other and by the feeling of rejection then. I wanted to show this strong woman, who comes from an Arab background and who takes responsibility without ever falling into the vulgar. “
Leyla Bouzid : “In the suburbs there is also a form of sexual misery or the impossibility of living a story of love and desire in a simple way. I have the impression that young girls are more mature, less inhibited compared to to all of this.
I tried to build a community that escapes clichés
Ahmed’s best friend tells him about girls but hasn’t had the chance to actually meet one. Everyone has a different vision of women but none has had access to her carnal and love stories.
I have tried to build a community that escapes clichés. I wanted to be as fair as possible characters. Likewise, through Ahmed’s sister, I wanted to show that suburban girls have very strong personalities and don’t need to be portrayed as victims. “
Sami Outalbali : “It’s a magnificent bias. It’s a breeze of clichés which highlights them in order to overcome them. There is sometimes a total ignorance of the Arab woman for her young people who live in France, grow up in neighborhoods, and who suddenly they make opinions with their friends who have gaps themselves and have put together pictures. Farah comes in and dismantles it all, puts everyone on time. “
A verbal and poetic staging of desire
Sami Outalbali : “The film shows that it’s not as simple as ‘wanting and giving in.’ It’s a thousand times more complicated for my character and I think for a lot of people. He wants but something else in him who says no When this something else finally says yes, the desire is no longer there.
It is so contained that it becomes denial. The end of the film is in that perfect because only concentrates on its subject, does not go beyond. “
Leyla Bouzid : “I wanted to film this retained desire and for me the only subject of the film is that Ahmed needs time, the time of the film to get to the end of things. In terms of cinema, it was at the heart of our work with the director of photography and the artistic team: how to film desire, poetic eroticism, retained desire.
Words and poetry can have a very powerful erotic charge
We did not have a reference film, there was real research to question ourselves and find how to film that. We did very few rehearsals between the two actors to preserve their palpable chemistry. They crossed paths for costume trials but they didn’t socialize too much on set outside of their stages to maintain this kind of tension that circulated between them. “
“Words and poetry can have a very powerful erotic charge, a double meaning. The teacher in the film puts double meanings, allusions, suggestions in her sentences and as she says “literature is desire, desire, more desire”.
I had a teacher like that, always in the suggestion and who was fascinating. I wanted to represent this eroticism, this power of words, which is difficult to film. I wanted a carnal and organic relationship to words, to literature. “
The discovery of Arab erotic literature
Leyla Bouzid : “In Arab culture, there are 100 words and many nuances indeed to describe love. The Arabic vocabulary carries with it all these nuances and I found it interesting to represent them in the cinema, that the film takes care of. a form of continuity, a legacy of that literature. “
I discovered the manual The Scented Garden when I was turning I barely open my eyes. It was written in the 15th century, in Tunisia. It’s a fairly playful, funny erotology essay, but above all something very serious, distributed to be read.
I knew that there were authors who sang wine as much as courtier love, and it seemed so crazy to me that we tend to forget or ignore all of this. For me, Arab culture revolves a lot around love, but we tend to forget it. “
Even people of Arab descent do not know that there is a richness in our sensual, erotic literary works.
Sami Outalbali : The film is about the organic given in the writing of a word, the handwriting. You can make sublime declarations of love by text. But there in the poem that she writes to him in Arabic, each erotic word is multiplied tenfold because she wrote it with her own hand. She’s in this paper. She gives a part of herself. It is the power of the written word.
Zbeida Belhajamor : We give meaning to words, to handwritten letters, to the beauty of ink on paper. He cannot read Arabic, so he has to rack his brains to understand, to reach it. I also liked the link between the two heroes and literature, and the fact that we bring Arab culture back to the fore, something we don’t see enough in the cinema.
Even people of Arab descent do not know that there is a richness in our sensual, erotic literary works. Farah is the bold voice of a generation that stands up against conservatism, obscurantism and all that archaic stuff. “
Discover the film in pictures