Event | Update : 06.05.19 . 3:28 PM

Event: Tony Gatlif's cinema concert sets the beach alight

Film still of Djam

Film still of Djam © RR

When Tony Gatlif comes to Cannes, you know about it. A festive air bubbles away in the room before, during and after screening. What better example than Geronimo, chosen as a Special Screening in 2014, and accompanied by an improvised performance from the dancers? This year, the Festival is giving him room to truly spread his wings. Djam is being screened as part of a cinema concert held at the Cinéma de la Plage. We catch up with the ever musical, ever politically engaged Tony Gatlif.

When you come to Cannes, you're interested in more than just showcasing your films!

My films are odes to life, celebration and reflection. It's cinema designed to help others. We'll be kicking off the evening's festivities with a Thessaloniki-based group used in the film and made up of Turkish rebetiko musicians [a poetic blues genre from Greece, with a Turkish twist]. We'll also be treated to performances from another group that spent a year helping me track down music to use in the film.
It took such a long time to find the right music for the film. Rebetiko is a very old style of music, and I needed songs that covered immigration but were still relevant today. We found the pieces, arranged some of them to feel more modern, and they became hits. We'll be spending the night celebrating after the screening.


Casting must have been difficult, since you needed to find an actor who spoke both French and Greek as well as being able to sing and dance...

I scoured France and Germany for the right person, and I eventually found her in Athens. Daphne is so very multi-talented, and that's rare! We could have taken shortcuts, and sometimes we do take shortcuts, but I wanted someone authentic. I was drawn to Daphne as soon as I met her. French and Greek are her mother tongues, those are her roots. She's beautiful, with something very human about her. She knows music, she can play the baglama [a Greek string instrument].

"Daphne is a gift. And when you have that, you have 60% of a successful film."

Djam explores the theme of exile, but in the opposite direction to the exile we see in the news nowadays...

All exiled peoples are similar. Leaving your country is a wrench. You pack only what you can carry in a suitcase, perhaps a little money, but you can't pack your culture, your music, your traditions. You leave behind everything that makes a human human. When they left Turkey for Greece, the exiles forged their own new culture, drawing on the rebetiko, and the result is something incredibly rich, like the blues. Those who left Greater Syria sought help and protection but found very little awaiting them. They were welcomed in by the Greeks, the islanders, the fishermen. The law of the sea requires the shipwrecked to be helped. These people were wonderful to them, despite experiencing crisis themselves. The exiles, in return, gave them their culture, as did the gypsies, the Greeks, the Pieds-Noirs...


Is Djam the distant sister of Geronimo and your earlier heroines?

I haven't had a male protagonist in a long time. This female character is the same as the one you see in Gadjo Dilo, in Geronimo, and in many other films. The difference in Djam is provided by Daphne's profound humanity. She touches the camera with it, she's present in the moment, she has an energy waiting to be unleashed. There's no hysteria in her, although there's a time and place for that, too! But I mean that there's no violence within her, violence is a foreign concept to her. I did everything in my power to reveal this humanity. The film tells the truth. There is no violence.

Written by Tarik Khaldi

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