The Doha Film Institute’s (DFI) 8th Ajyal Film Festival, which concluded on Monday, hosted the director of Their Algeria, Lina Soualem, in a virtual press briefing to discuss her impactful documentary that explores themes of separation, exile and unspoken trauma.
Making its Mena premiere, DFI-grantee Their Algeria (France, Algeria, Switzerland, Qatar/2020) follows French-Algerian couple Aïcha and Mabrouk, who decide to separate after 62 years of marriage.
The enduring couple came together from Algeria to Thiers, a small medieval town in the middle of France, more than six decades ago. Prompted by the sudden decision, their granddaughter Lina goes in search of answers.
For director Lina Soualem, the film is a personal investigation into the relationship between her grandparents – the last remaining Algerians in Thiers – and their eventful past.
“I believe in order to move forward as individuals and as a community, we need to understand our past. My grandparents bestowed this heritage on me, making it part of my own story even though I was born in France and never experienced the exile. Most importantly, I feel that our personal stories of migration and belonging are all part of a collective memory that needs to be preserved and told to the world,” Soualem said.
“As a young filmmaker working on my very first film, I wanted to talk about a familiar subject, involving people I knew to deliver an intimate perspective to audiences and contribute to an important conversation on our history – both as Algerians and as French. As captured in the title, ‘their’ Algeria is the story of my ancestors and their personal experiences, which gradually unfolded through the making of this film and turned into ‘my’ Algeria,” Soualem said.
Winner of the CCU – CROUS Student Award for First Work at the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival, Their Algeria also received the inaugural Docs-in-Progress Award at the Cannes Film Festival's Marché du Film and the Golden Star for Best Arab Documentary at El Gouna Film Festival.
The captivating family portrait of exile and silence sheds a personal light on the immigrant community’s sense of belonging and resonates with audiences globally.