This time last year media outlets around the world were overflowing with talk of Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour winning the coveted Palme d’Or. The Tunisian-French director’s raw and intimate lesbian love story generated both admiration and controversy. While it was proclaimed by hordes of critics and moviegoers as the best film of 2013, it was also banned from being released in many places, including several cities in the United States.
On the first three days of June, art house cinema intitiative Zawya will be hosting a Kechiche retrospective to acquaint audiences with the filmmaker’s earlier body of work, specifically his first three features: La Faute à Voltaire (Poetical Refugee, 2000), L’Esquive (Games of Love and Chance, 2003) and La Graine et Le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain, 2007).
La Faute à Voltaire is Kechiche’s debut film and sets the tone for the majority of his later creations. The film follows Jallel, a young immigrant who arrives to Paris filled with dreams that start to collide, one by one, with the harsh reality of life as an outsider on the margins of the city. Heartwarming and compelling, La Faute à Voltaire carries in its folds the budding elements of Kechiche’s aesthetic, which gradually come into full fruition afterwards.
In L’Esquive, Kechiche continues to explore themes of immigration and social consciousness, this time through a group of teenagers living in the housing projects in the suburbs of Paris, practicing a passage from Marivaux’s play ‘Games of Love and Chance’ for school. The film is a gritty yet tender look at adolescence, unfiltered and sincere.
Kechiche takes his portrayal of struggling immigrants to new heights in La Graine et Le Mulet. The film chronicles the life of Slimane, who is fighting to be able to open a couscous restaurant in France, and his extended family. Again, Kechiche is rough and unhindered, and signs of the unmistakable intensity that distinguishes his more recent films begin to show themselves clearly.
Zawya had been planning to conclude the Kechiche retrospective with the director’s magnum opus, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, but the film was not approved by censorship authorities. The retrospective, however, remains an excellent chance to take a closer look at the work of this remarkable filmmaker, tracing his evolution as an artist and a storyteller before he peaked with last year’s roaring masterpiece.
Sunday, 1 June
La Faute à Voltaire
Monday, 2 June
Tuesday, 3 June
La Graine et Le Mulet
All screenings take place at 6.30.
Odeon Cinema, 4 Abdel Hamid Said Street, off Talaat Harb Street, Downtown Cairo.