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seeking documentary ideas

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  • seeking documentary ideas

    Not 'Literature and Film' yet, but hopefully one day...

    I'm developing a documentary idea and would like to get your thoughts on it. My grandparents were French Pied-Noir from Oran who left for Marseille in '62. I'm now living in an area of London were there are many Algerians. The central idea for the film is that there's a strong historical and 'blood' connection between me and these people that I pass on the street every day, yet the cultural divide seems enormous. I don't want to delve into questions of religion here, as it is way too vast an area -
    I'm more interested in exploring the parallels between us than the differences. I feel somehow tied to the land, the sand, the smells and sounds of North Africa, even though I've never lived there(I grew up in Spain and the UK). My family talk longingly of this golden past, they have many photos and even some films, and they know how to make couscous and Mantecaos; it's all part of me through my bloodline, even though I know that my family's vision is one of privilege and that they were 'the exploiters'.
    I want to know what Algerians make of the Pieds-Noirs now, if it's still a topic which raises interest, or resentment, or if it's 'water under the bridge'. I'd especially like to hear from Algerians in London (plenty of men on the streets, but where are the women?) and to swap histories and impressions. Of course I'm also interested in the opininons of Algerians in Algeria , and would especially like to hear from anyone involved in film or documentary there. And also if there's any descendants of Pieds-Noirs out there like me (if you're reading this you must be interested in your place in history too!). I speak French if that's easier for anyone but not Arabic I'm afraid.

    I feel nervous writing this, as if I'm reaching out to new and unknown friends! Maybe because I really have no idea whether the response will be positive or negative...!

  • #2
    have you though about including the stories of american or european born algerians who are disconnected from their roots, but searching or going back to find out where they came from? This would be interesting.
    A life lived in fear is a life half lived...
    Free yourself


    • #3
      Dear juju,
      this idea seems rather interesting to me I've to say.
      I had lots of problems in my work to get in contact with people, but I think that you are more interested in the older generation than the young people that are not directly concerned with immigration, colonization and the war of independence. The responses I got to my questionnaires were almost all from people aged from 40-55. I’ve only got 3 immigrated Algerians that are about 25-28 and they often don’t have to say a lot about their history.
      I think that you really need a lot of patience if you want to get some interesting information helping you to find some parallels between the pieds-noirs and the ones with Algerian roots.
      I suppose too, that you should at least know about all the differences concerning the religions of the people and how they were affected because otherwise it can happen that the people feel “attacked” by your questions or whatever. The colonial past is a very delicate theme and I think that a project the way you plan it to do, can help to develop a new feeling of an international identity. Showing that there are many things that are the same for the ones having colonized a country(the people emigrating there, were not always the ones having all the money and owning all the properties around them) and the ones being colonized!!

      Hope you get on with your work soon!! Would be glad to have a look at it afterwards!!


      • #4
        Thanks for your suggestions. I do have to pin down a specific theme, but it's a little bit of a chicken and egg situation - if I meet people I will find ideas, but not sure who or how to meet. The film could be about the process of finding the story - but this has to be really well made to work - otherwise it can seem really amateur. Perhaps the start could be me posting this thread and then getting your replies (using webcams)...realising there's a massive worldwide Algerian/Pied-Noir community out there, internationally. See where these stories take me. Often you start out with an idea for a documentary, and as you visit the places or meet the people involved your idea changes.

        I like the idea of US/European-born Algerians also having to explore their roots.

        Anyone want to throw in any more themes? or direct me to any other sites or organisations that may be inspiring?! Even if it sounds slightly off-the-point - who knows where it might lead?

        I also like the idea of making a documentary film collaboratively through a site like this - even if we never meet.

        If anyone new reads this, let me know what kind of film you'd like to make about Algeria and Europe/US (not just Algeria itself - that is an entirely different and huge area for discussion!). I suppose I am more interested in people of my generation (20-35), as so many films have already been made about the French-Algerian war and its immediate consequences. I'm also interested in this colonial issue- has the slate been wiped clean or is there still resentment? Has it all been re-inflamed with Sept 11th etc? I wish someone would talk to me about this. How should I feel about it - guilty, ashamed? Or is it nothing to do with me? I feel that in big cities like London, social differences are less about race and more about class - whether you've been to University for instance, regardless of what your parents do for a living. Any thoughts?


        • #5
          Hi there,

          I am a new member at this site! As an algerian I find your interest in Algeria fascinating, and your enthusiasm to find out more about the people and their way of thinking very refreshing!

          The idea itself is great. However, I would think that you would find it slightly difficult to obtain any relevant information from our generation (20-35). The reason being that such a topic is not widely discussed amongst this generation! This is from my own experience, and is by no means conclusive. Some might disagree. But one thing I am certain of is that there is no judgmental attitude towards Pied-Noir community. Moreover, the colonial issue is a distant memory. Of course there might be some who still 'hold a grudge', and blame the french for any problems we have. Nevertheless, it is rarely a strong feeling of hatered or resentment. Again, I would say that this is more of an older generation area of discussion, and the younger generation 's point of view would sway heavily towards indifference.

          September the 11th or indeed any other similar event, in my opinion would not have awakened or like you said re-inflamed any issues regarding the matter. Because for our generation we do not relate this kind of event with the past, simply because we did not live through the colonisation period and we did not develop any sentiments linked to it. We do not have the memory of it, that would trigger the type of feeling you mentioned.

          By no means should you feel guilty or ashamed! Why should you. As you said, you have nothing to do with it. And this my opinion, that of a algerian woman of your generation. I am sure many more like me would agree.

          Social differences are an interesting subject. From my own experience, here in the UK race is becoming less of a criterion defining social status. But I also believe that class does not come in that high up in the list neither. I might be wrong, but I think that it would depend on the area! Of course, for those who are 'bothered' about social class, it might be important. But these tend to be a minority that belongs to a 'higher class' and who want it to create a certain social division as they regard it as a 'beneficial' difference.

          In this day and age, we are mature enough to realise that there should not be a social divide, whether it is a product of race, class, or education. In reality though it will always exist in some shape or form. Of course, 'money/income' (which might be of direct consequence to class or education) could constitute a fast growing potential social difference/divide.

          This is all I can think of saying at the moment. I know it is not much at all but it is an individual opinion and I would be very happy if I could be of more assistance to you.

          I hope you gather interesting and relevant information for your documentary and I wish you all the best in your pursuit.


          Despair and misery are static factors. The dynamism of an uprising flows from hope and pride. Not actual suffering but the hope of better things incites people to revolt.
          - Eric Hoffer


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