Eye For Film >> Movies >> In Mansourah, You Separated Us (2019) Film Review
In Mansourah, You Separated Us
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Population displacement due to war is something that is very much in focus as the conflict in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis continues. It's a timely moment, then, to watch Dorothée Myriam Kellou's intimate and personal consideration of the French displacement of more than two million people in Algeria during the 1952-64 war between France and the National Liberation Front (FNL) - a displacement which she shows has had a lasting and profound effect on those who live through it, and their culture.
Kellou economically sets the scene with intertitles that explain her father Malek didn't speak about the trauma of his childhood for years, finally writing a script that he gave to his children and talking of the way that a statue of French "war hero" Sergeant Blandan on his way to work triggered latent emotions. "Fear inhabited me," he tells his daughter, "and the soldier personified it".
The dialogue that began with his script opened the door for this documentary to step into his past and his "silenced memory". We travel with the pair of them as they go back to the house where Malek was born, gradually retracing the steps of the rural population's forced resettlement as he and others like him recall the experience of being made to leave their home villages for more than 3,700 resettlement camps where there were often many families to a home.
The film is filled with first-person testimony - from a journey that split children from parents to a woman recounting how she would cut the barbed wire around her village in order to help the FNL fighters and a man recalling the day he thought his father had been killed. Kellou is evocative and respectful in the way she captures these stories on camera, for example, allowing the tale of being hoisted into trucks without parents play out over a journey in the back of wagon.
Where other filmmakers might lean in to catch the sight of tears, Kellou lets the fact that people sometimes walk away from the lens as the trauma of the past bubbles up speak for itself. Interiors form backdrops that could almost be still life paintings, while cinematographer Hassen Ferhani's camera also drinks in the scenery or small details, like a fire, to let us consider how conflict can brutally affect even the most remote places. The silence, we learn, comes not just from those for who find it difficult to remember but for the entire nation of France, where discussion of the conflict is largely unspoken. This 71-minute documentary is a vivid and emotional portrait of the forgotten, offering a chorus of memories that will hopefully help to change that.Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2020