Abou Leila, by Amin Sidi-Boumediène
Traumatic memories of the Algerian civil war resurface as two friends embark on a bloody, metaphorical man-hunt across the desert. This first film from French director Amin Sidi-Boumediène has been praised for its performances, the political context it captures, and visuals which echo the very limits of madness.
A first Algerian film
Born in 1982 in Paris, Amin Sidi-Boumédiène studied cinema and obtained a degree in production from the French Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma (CLCF).
His first short film, Demain, Alger ? (2011) and his featurettes L’Île (2012) and Serial K (2014) were selected at numerous international festivals. Having caught the industry's eye, Amin Sidi-Boumediène made his first feature film in 2019, Abou Leila.
Terrorism in the 1990s
1994, Algeria. Two childhood friends are crossing the Sahara in search of Abou Leila, a terrorist on the run. While the first, S., seems to have embarked on this hunt in good faith, the second, Lofti, has mysterious reasons for wanting to keep his companion away from the capital.
Over 2:20, the sequences and performances immerse the viewer in the characters trauma — or perhaps their madness? Led by the actors Slimane Benouari and Lyes Salem, this "road movie" borrows tropes from horror, Westerns and philosophical fables.
How can we talk about the past?
“Through this first film, I wanted to talk about terrorism in Algeria in the 1990s. Instead of going for a social, political tale, I chose to avoid temporal markers in order to better express myself from a philosophical and human point of view, in a more universal way”, explains director Amin Sidi-Boumédiène, who reflects on the Algerian civil war, and what are often called “the black years” from the intimate and invisible perspective of their psychological impact.
Elusive and belonging to the past, violence resurfaces through metamorphoses, dreams and hallucinations.
In Abou Leila critics have noted references to Andrei Tarkovsky (The Mirror, 1974) and David Lynch (Blue Velvet, 1987). Watching the two friends in the desert, viewers will also think of Gus Van Sant's film Gerry (2002).
The political context which Amin Sidi-Boumédiène takes on and the strength of his visuals carried the film to a selection at the 58th Critics’ Week, at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
Amin Sidi-Boumédiène’s film Abou Leila received support from the Institut français’ Aide aux cinémas du monde fund in 2017. This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries. Learn more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde