Chouf, delinquency seen from a new angle

Film still of Chouf © RR

The third and final part of Karim Dridi Marseille trilogy after Bye-Bye and KhamsaChouf tells of the vague hankering for vengeance of a Marseille youth after the death of his brother. The director bares the soul of the film, which he sees as an alternative angle to the classic media take on delinquency.

What inspired you to make this film?

Chouf is the third part of my Marseille trilogy. The first part, Bye-Bye, which came out in 1995, helped me discover the city from a cinematographic point of view. 12 years later, there was Khamsa, which brought me into contact with Romany kids and the teenagers on the disadvantaged northern housing estates. The experience of making the film was so strong, so rewarding from a human point of view, that seven years later I returned to Marseille to film Chouf.

Why did it seem important to explore the inner workings of a drug trafficking network?

These power games are the result of fratricidal wars in which so much blood is spilt in the poorer estates throughout the country. Our only insight into this reality is the one we get from the media. Chouf presents an alternative angle to this media viewpoint. It invites viewers into the other side of the looking glass. To put names and faces to these anonymous victims, to make them human.

The film shows the descent into hell of a young man dragged down by his environment. Why did you choose this angle?

I made the film to shed light on the social determinism that governs us all. Sofiane comes from a united family. His parents love him and have given him all the help he needs to go on to higher education. This intelligent young man has everything it takes to get on in life. His only two faults are to be of North African origin and to live on a sink estate. How can he escape this environment and social conditions? How can he resist the life that seems to be laid out in advance for him?

“I definitely set out to create a genre half way between a western and a thriller”

Vengeance is a strong theme in the film…

It's not vengeance that the hero seeks. What he wants is for justice to be done, but he knows that his country's justice system will do nothing for him. So he asks his brother's friends to take justice into their own hands, and when he sees them doing nothing, he decides to have a go himself. By the time he realises he's not cut out for violence, it's too late. The trap closes in around him.

Why did you choose this title, and not "Caïds" (Gang leaders), as originally planned?

The word "chouf" means "look" in Arabic, but also "he who looks, he who spies" so a sort of guard, or look-out. In this context, it also means "look what's happening on our estates. Look, I'm going to show you something you don't see every day."

What type of narration did you decide on?

I hope I've succeeded in creating a cinematographic mix. A blend of genre film and arthouse film which does not shy away from social or political issues. A delicate balance between something that's entertaining and thought-provoking. I'd love the film to speak to everyone. It's up to each viewer to take from it what they will. I definitely set out to create a genre half way between a western and a thriller for this film. That's why I shot in in scope –  an ample and novelistic option for a genre film.