If we look up the word “benevolent” in a dictionary, we might be surprised to find a picture of it honorary citizen by Mohamed Hamidi, discovered at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival. The director of born somewhere sends an uninspired writer played by Kad Merad to the small Algerian village of his childhood where he is honored to have received the Nobel Prize.
“He will find that things have changed a lot in thirty-five years, confides the director 20 minutes. This will help him find his roots and his enthusiasm. The novelist meets sympathetic 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 everyone.
A nuanced return
“Our hero has somehow forgotten where he came from, even though 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 far less ferocious 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, the director insists. I think viewers need kindness more than ferocity these days. This does not prevent him from revealing to what extent Algerian youth, especially women, have to fight to make their voices heard in a misogynistic and corrupt country.
“ honorary citizen it is both a portrait of a man who has lost his way and a painting of a country that seeks 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 flock of sheep blocking his car. But laughter is stifled in the face of Mafia pressures he is subjected to or when he finds a childhood friend who reminds him of his student struggles.
“I think the film will appeal to all generations of viewers as it deals with topics that speak to all ages,” insists the director. A universal theme, the family in all its forms is at the center of this Honorary Citizen who confirms how much Mohamed Hamidi knows how to love and make people love him.