An Original Reconstruction: Frank Chiche's "Je Vous Ai Compris"

in 18th Geneva International Film Festival Tous Ecrans

by Lotfi Ben Khelifa

This innovative historical film – the only animated film in competition this year – is a tribute to the Algerian combatants during the war of independence. Director Frank Chiche has chosen to make his film in an original manner, reconstructing events and giving them a new atmosphere. Everything is real and yet unreal in this drama. Actors become characters in animation.

The title quote, “Je vous ai compris,” refers to the pronouncement made by Charles de Gaulle on June 4, 1958, in Algiers. On the night of April 21, 1961, there is an attempt to overthrow the policy of De Gaulle. At the same time, three young people named Malika, Jacquot and Thomas are preparing to face their futures. The film is dedicated to young people; each loves Algeria, but in a different way. However, should they think of themselves as French or Algerian in order to love Algeria? Each character has a different position in regard to religion and identity, but each must defend his or her point of view. The film tells us about a human story during an incredible period of history.

The journey to independence is difficult – this is a tale and not a fairytale! Many attacks take place, death is always imminent. The film’s reconstruction of historical scenes is masterly. The cars, jeeps, songs, costumes and scenery show us the details of daily life in this period. The film invents new technological ways to tell historical stories; it changes the content of animation, in a way which is appropriate to the evolution of cinema. Today, French cinema is seeking to differentiate itself from other productions: with this film, history is depicted in an original fashion by using animation. The collective memory of the Algerian people is represented through animation, and why not?

Edited by Lesley Chow