"I saw Algeria again as it was thirty years ago"

May 2008 -

Now that there is more peace and quiet in his native country, film maker Amor Hakkar sees space for the personal in Algerian cinema. Amor Hakkar was born in Algeria but has lived and worked in France for his entire life. "La Maison Jaune is a French-Algerian co production, but I would give it the Algerian nationality. It was filmed in Algeria, many of the actors are Algerian and the language is Berber. But technically and financially, I absolutely needed a French production company."

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Scene from La Maison Jaune

Since the civil war of the early 1990s, film production in Algeria has been virtually non-existent. "Many film makers fled to France, there are few film technicians and scarcely any training programmes. The production chain fell apart," Hakkar explains. Algerian films have always been closely affiliated with history – the first films all covered the war for independence. Later films were made about the lives of Algerian immigrants in France and the religious tensions of the early 1990s. Now many Algerian film makers are returning to their homeland to make films. As did Amor Hakkar: "Most are also preoccupied now with Algeria’s history. Now that things have quieted down, they want to tell about the horrors of the past decades. I had a different story. I wanted to show how traumatising it is to lose a loved one." In La Maison Jaune , the eldest son of a family in the mountains of Algeria dies in the army. The father collects the body with a tractor and brings it home. He does everything he can to give his wife her smile back.

In La Maison Jaune, the lead – played by Hakkar himself – receives an abundance of understanding, support and warmth from the people he meets during his amazing journey. "That is how people respond to the mourning they see. I show a side other than war, betrayal and evil. I loved what people said about my film: 'For a while, I saw Algeria again as it was thirty years ago.'" It was also a catharsis for Hakkar himself. "I mourned deeply when my father died. I brought his body to Algeria for burial. I got to know the area where I was born and found the inspiration for my film. After I made the film, I felt a thousand times better."

La Maison Jaune was shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2008.