I mentioned last week Rachid Bouchareb’s new film, Indigènes, which is about a little known chapter of history: That (Muslim) soldiers from the French colonies were sent to fight the Nazis. It’s a subject that’s near to my heart, because my grandfather was part of the Tirailleurs Marocains, so I am dying to see the movie. I just heard that the ensemble cast (Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, and Samy Naceri) has won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film doesn’t have a U.S. distributor yet, but one hopes that the attention at Cannes will help get it to theatres here.
I’d like to read Elaine Sciolino’s interview with Jamel Debbouze in the NYT, but it’s hidden behind a subscription wall.
Can someone send it to me? Thanks, A. Here’s a snippet:
He achieved international recognition with the 2001 film “Amélie,” in which he played Lucien, a stammering grocer’s assistant. In “Astérix and Obélix: Mission Cleopatra” the next year, Mr. Debbouze played an incompetent Egyptian architect who never made his deadlines and put doors near ceilings, justifying them by saying, “In case you ever want to build a second floor.” That role earned him $2.7 million,
making him one of France’s top-grossing actors. Now only Gérard Depardieu commands a higher salary per film.
He credits his mother, who rose every morning at 4 and held down back-to-back jobs to help support him and his five siblings, for his success.
“In everything that’s black, she sees rose, yellow, green,” he said. His mother, a Muslim, wears a headscarf in public.
When he told his father, now a retired sweeper in the Métro, that he wanted to be a comedian, he said his father replied, “That’s for drug addicts and homosexuals.” After a pause, Mr. Debbouze smiled and added, “But he calmed down when I gave him his first Mercedes.”
Mr. Debbouze resents that he is given such labels as “the prince of the housing projects” or the “Arab with attitude.”
“They categorize us always as ‘actors of Moroccan origin,’” he said. “I am not an ‘actor of Moroccan origin.’ I am an actor.”
I’m not sure why we needed to hear about his mother’s headscarf, but oh wait, it is the NYT, after all.