French politician and filmmaker Yamina Benguigui has tackled sensitive issues in France in relation to individuals of Maghreb origin within her productions, which focus on immigration and identity politics.
In an interview on Al Arabiya’s program, Point of Order (Noqtat Nezam), Benguigui pointed towards the importance of political discussion within her movies, particularly in her latest film “Immigrant Memories.”
Born in France to Algerian parents, Benguigui has criticized political scenarios in France through her filmmaking.
“I believe that my journey is distinctive as I am a committed director who shifted to politics through my movies,” she said.
“I was raised in a unique context; my family paid a high price for the independence of Algeria, despite my great honor of being Algerian.”
In the movie, “Immigrant Memories,” the filmmaker explores the imprisoning capabilities of memories.
“Our fathers are part of this colonial history. I wanted to shed light over the history of those immigrants who came to France to work and the story of our fathers who fought for the independence of their country,” Benguigui said.
“That was a complicated period because at the time you were either Algerian or French,” she added.
“I tried to explain the reason why we are here, the reality of our history and to identify collective memory. I presented the issue to those within French communities who do not consider us as part of this society,” she said adding that it was not about discussing negative points but rather to present the facts.
The film also gives insight into the lives and history of many Algerians and Moroccans living in France, including Benguigui’s family.
“We were raised and lived in two different environments. Three quarters of my family members were either killed or assassinated at the hands of the French police in the Algerian liberation war,” she said.
“My father was arrested and was a political prisoner in France. We were raised in the confines of a language that I unfortunately do not speak, Arabic,” the French-speaking Benguigui added.
Raised in a moderate Islamic household, Benguigui believes she has inherited a degree of wisdom from her parents in regards to their religiosity.
However, she said that how Islam has been applied in the Muslim world has notably shifted since Ayatollah Khomeini came into power in the late 1970s.
“This new Islam has been imposed through different means, a different language emanating from a religion which has deviated from its moderate orientation,” Benguigui said.
“We should differentiate between the two. There is a difference between political Islam, its underlying reasons and its positive and negative aspects,” she added.
In a related matter, Benguigui said that the veil-ban laws should be restored to their context. She mentioned a trip to Yemen to shoot a scene for one of her films and was requested to cover up, as well as her colleague – who didn’t agree with the idea of covering her hair as well.
“I told her: yes you will because this is the law of this country and we should respect it. If they ask us to cover our whole body, then we should,” she said.
“But here in France (a secular country), it’s been years that we are struggling to allow the practice of Islam without compromising the French law. We were the first to start this struggle, the struggle of practicing religious rituals. But I believe we should take the law in consideration in addition to culture,” she added.
Speaking of French President Francois Hollande, Benguigui said that he was the first statesman and president who is concerned about minorities, which was made evident in his proposals during his presidential campaign.
“He did not treat any segment of the French society with prejudice, he has not differentiated between Muslims and non-Muslims,” she said.
“Francois Hollande has a vision for diplomatic relations between the Arab world and France. It is pointing towards the rapprochement with the Muslim Arab world and of course he has a point of view regarding the conflict in Syria,” she said.
“But at the same time, he takes in consideration the stances of other countries. His vision is close to that of Algeria and the African Union. Therefore, he believes that the solution should be based on an agreement with all these countries.” Benguigui added.