It seems that neither the festivals nor the television channels wanted Kim Chapiron’s latest feature film. It seems that The Young Imam lack of distance vis-à-vis Islam. It even seems that he would tend to proselytism. I read some reviews after seeing the movie. I know that the very principle of reviews is to issue a subjective point of view on a film that everyone sees with their own story, their experience and their way of reading the world too. One of them, which appeared in The worldrecounts having seen there the image of an Islam “from the inside more trivial and peaceful than usual, of an anthropological order” ; another, in Releasetalking about a movie “embedded in a bigotry without distance”.
I am risking an analysis here. I don’t know the authors of these reviews. I don’t know anything about their software for analyzing and understanding the world. I fear that their criticisms are above all the expression of a very French syndrome of cultural confinement; the one who sees in any object of creation approaching Islam under the prism of the daily life of people, at best – and the word “better” here is overused – an attraction (in both senses of the term) anthropological , an exotic curiosity, an object of cultural amusement; at worst – and there the word “worse” is perfectly assumed – the expression of a bliss of bigots without hindsight, of a concealed proselytism, of a treatment of religion without distance, understand without distance that the world of intellectuals (theirs), including those in the cinema, should have. Between orientalism and condescension, I don’t know which is better or which is worse.
Receptacles of our reading of the world
It is said of a film having Christian religious practice as the backdrop of its history, and there are many of them in this case, that it lacks distance from it, that they embrace this religion without no restraint? Can’t the Muslim religion simply be the decor, the background without being attributed any role to it? Does this mean that even in cinema, a temple of fiction and the imaginary, Islam can only be seen, appreciated, heard through our perception of reality? Can’t Muslims in the cinema be seen as complex characters above all, rather than receptacles of our reading of the world? Finally, who locks whom?
I also read that this film finally allows a positive narrative about Islam. I wonder if this criticism isn’t even worse than the previous ones… When will we get out of the endless and uninteresting debate on the story of positive Islam vs. negative Islam? I really don’t care. And I say it all the more calmly as I am of the Muslim faith. When it comes to getting characters to talk, to portraying life stories, this debate makes no sense. Besides, the movie The Young Imam is even the proof.
On the other hand, finally getting out of the clichés, yes, getting out of the expected scenarios, seen and reviewed, yes, showing complex stories and characters entangled in contradictions, having to respond to opposing injunctions, leading us ourselves to ask ourselves about their evolution, our progress as spectators and somewhere about our life too, a thousand times yes. The film is already a success for that.
A captivating story
I saw The Young Imam at the cinema last week. I can tell you that I was captivated by the stories and the psychology of the characters. Captivated by a story that shows Islam as a perfectly banal religion of community life. I didn’t see a lack of distance there, I especially saw the decor of daily life in a suburban Parisian town like a village could be punctuated by other rites, religious or not.
What a sadness and what a defeat for our demand to say that this choice made by the film crew be seen as subversive. Islam in the film is nothing but cement that unites people driven by a faith, without it being shown to me, the spectator, as a revolving light announcing a danger to come or described as the absolute good. Islam is there, and that’s it. Captivated above all by a universal and dented story, the most important of the film in my opinion, which tells of a son’s quest for the love of a lost mother. It was this story that really moved me.
I was overwhelmed by the interpretation of the mother by Hady Berthe. Give him an award and other roles. It’s the only thing that should matter. That we talk about this film and the others for what they are, works of creation and that we denigrate them or praise them for what they are, works of creation. And that we leave our fantasies, our obsessions and our prejudices, wherever we are, in the locker room, for good.