×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Immigrant Memories: The North African Inheritance

Ethnic strife and antagonism toward onetime "guest workers" being a hot issue these days, "Immigrant Memories" - which attempts a historical and intimate overview of North African-heritage French citizens - should get decent Eurotube play. But hewing to kinder-gentler human portraiture in a fashion that often skirts harsher political realities, docu divulges just limited insight into a complex topic. Its three parts neatly sectioned into sub-hour packages, pic is best suited to broadcast venues.

Ethnic strife and antagonism toward onetime “guest workers” being a hot issue these days, “Immigrant Memories” – which attempts a historical and intimate overview of North African-heritage French citizens – should get decent Eurotube play. But hewing to kinder-gentler human portraiture in a fashion that often skirts harsher political realities, docu divulges just limited insight into a complex topic. Its three parts neatly sectioned into sub-hour packages, pic is best suited to broadcast venues.

First section, subtitled “The Fathers,” offers the broadest scope. The booming French economy after Word War II (especially among auto manufacturers) required importation of additional work-force muscle. A natural recruitment center was Algeria, then under French rule; bodies were also culled from Tunisia , Morocco and elsewhere. The promise of wealth lured thousands of single men, many leaving children and wives behind. But despite their often already-decent bilingual abilities and eagerness to assimilate, most found segregation, primitive living conditions and poor pay as long-term greeting.

After the Algerian War for independence (won in ’62), emigre workers agitated more boldly for political and economic rights. The French government’s response was to placate via a “Family Reunification Program” that brought over long-separated spouses and offspring. Yet somehow many of these immigrants – and certainly their “host” majority society – never figured this would result in permanent second- and third-generation multicultural minorities.

Remaining two parts, “The Mothers” and “The Children,” are not as strong mostly because they abandon the larger political framework for illustrative individual life stories. While desire to put a human face on current, often xenophobically tilted issues, is well-meant – stressing the inclusive rather than “different” nature of interviewees who now identify primarily as Frenchmen and Frenchwomen – it avoids controversy to a happy-faced fault.

Portraits of middle-aged women who enjoy their Continental freedom relative to Islamic homeland gender-constraints are welcome, as are those of younger subjects (a writer, a lawyer, a gaggle of project-residing teenagers) who bemusedly reflect on their schizoid bicultural identity.

But helmer Yamina Benguigui’s editing approach grows repetitious – interview seg, musical montage transition, then another interview seg – while her referencing the uglier native-French roots/results of racism both past and present seldom goes far enough to risk viewer discomfort.

Pic benefits from incorporating an evident wealth of postwar documentary footage, abetted by latter-day interviews with numerous emigre-focus government officials from several regimes (only one of whom comes off as conservative-boorish). Pacing is a mite slack, though whole package would play better in primarily intended one-hour bites.

Immigrant Memories: The North African Inheritance

(DOCU -- FRENCH -- COLOR/B&W)

Production: A Canal Plus/Bandits Prods. presentation. Produced by Philippe Dupuis-Mendel. Directed, written by Yamina Benguigui.

Crew: Camera (color, B&W), Virginie St. Martin, Bakir Beladi; editors, Lionel Bernard, Nadia Ben Rachid; sound, Serge Richard; assistant director, Jose Gerel. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival , April 27, 1998. Running time: 160 MIN.

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content