“Tirailleurs” with Omar Sy has been in our theaters since Wednesday. A look back at the history of these men to whom Mathieu Vadepied pays tribute here.
Tirailleurs by Mathieu Vadepied was released in theaters this Wednesday, January 4. The feature film worn by Omar Sy and Alassane Diong takes place in 1917.
Bakary Diallo (Sy) enlists in the French army to join Thierno (Diong), his 17-year-old son, who was forcibly recruited. Sent to the front, father and son will have to face the war together.
The director has been carrying this project for many years. The latter explains that the idea for this film was born in 1998 on the death of the last Senegalese tirailleur enlisted by force in the French army in 1914 (Abdoulaye Ndiaye, who died at the age of 104).
What if the Unknown Soldier was a Senegalese rifleman?
“The irony of fate is that he died the day before he was to receive the Legion of Honor promised by the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac.
At that time, and I don’t know why, I said to myself that if it is in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the remains of a colonial army skirmisher from one of these colonized African countries lie, so by France. And that’s how it all started.”
During the First World War, more than 200,000 tirailleurs from Africa and nicknamed “Senegalese tirailleurs” fought alongside French soldiers. They were not all Senegalese but this name is given to them because the 1st regiment was created in Senegal.
About 30,000 died on the battlefield and many of them returned disabled. This film pays homage to them in the image of Indigènes by Rachid Bouchareb, who in 2006 honored the Algerian skirmishers who fought during the Second World War.
Created by a decree of Napoleon III in the summer of 1857, the Senegalese skirmishers were a body of soldiers made up of soldiers from all over Africa, belonging to the troops of the French colonial Empire.
If a few men are volunteers, most of them are former slaves bought back from their “masters” or prisoners of war and are therefore conscripted by force.
In February 1912, a decree instituted recruitment by requisition. In “The epic of the Senegalese skirmishers” by Eugène-Jean Duval (Éditions L’Harmattan), it is indicated that the decree provides that “black natives of the French West Africa group may in all circumstances be designated to continue their service outside the territory of the colony.”
In 1915, villagers in Mali revolted against these forced requisitions, but the rebellion was suppressed. In June 1916, France ordered the shooting of a dozen “recalcitrant” villages, killing several thousand civilians.
In the film, the director also shows how men of fighting age could be torn from their families.
“All memories make up our common history”: Omar Sy on Tirailleurs
Senegalese skirmishers took part in all the battles alongside French soldiers: from the conquest of Madagascar between 1895 to 1905 to the Second World War, obviously passing through the First World War, the Morocco campaign, the Indochina War or the Algerian War again. The last rifle battalions were disbanded between 1960 and 1964.
But paradoxically, these men are barely mentioned in history books. A fact that Mathieu Vadepied regrets and that he would like to see evolve. He tells us in an interview:I would like this film to make it possible to do educational work in schools, perhaps to modify the programs or history textbooks a little.“
“Complete a story and consider all the memories that make up our common history”
Asked about this for the release of the feature film, Omar Sy affirms that this film aims to “remember a part of history with a different story“. He adds to our microphone: “That doesn’t mean denying the history we already know, it’s simply completing a story and considering all those memories that make up our common history.
It’s actually a braided story. We try a lot to cut branches as if it were a tree, but our story is like a mat. The stories are linked.
In this film, we see history in the other direction in fact. When France will colonize Senegal. Since then, these two countries and others for that matter, have been linked and it will not come undone, it is not a branch that can be pruned.”
Tirailleurs is a tribute to these men and a real duty to remember. The feature film is to be seen in our dark rooms since this Wednesday, January 4.