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Cinema: “Bonne Mère”, a laudatory portrait and a promise kept by Hafsia Herzi

Halima Benhamed stars in the movie “Good Mother” by Hafsia Herzi. (SBS PRODUCTIONS / COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL VIA AFP)

Presented at the Cannes Film Festival in the “Un certain regard” category, it will be released on Wednesday July 21 in French cinemas: Good mother, of Hafsia Herzi, tells the story of a housekeeper and her entourage, who live in the northern districts of Marseille.

Revealed in 2007 by The grain and the mule by Abdellatif Kechiche, Hafsia Herzi has since turned in about thirty films. At only 34 years old, she offers her second feature film as a director. The first, You deserve a love, released in 2019, had earned him great critical recognition.

New, Good mother, therefore takes place in the northern districts of Marseille, more precisely Cité des Oliviers, where Hafsia Herzi herself grew up. And the character of Nora, a cleaning lady who gets up at dawn and takes the bus to clean the planes in Marignane, is directly inspired by her own mother.

“My mother was a cleaning lady in a college at the airport and she also took care of elderly people, tell Hafsia Herzi. And we were a big family too. And I always had a lot of admiration for my mother, who I saw working hard to provide for us. And I was like ‘One day, one day, I will write a film about a mother who fights every day for her children’. “

We therefore follow Nora’s daily life, between cleaning in the morning, helping an elderly person in the afternoon, before taking care of her four children in the evening, with an elder in prison. The hassle, the resourcefulness, the lack of money. A main character who takes a lot, but keeps smiling. Lhe film could switch to cliché or miserable, but never does, largely thanks to the actors, for the most part, moreover, non-professionals. “I really wanted to take real inhabitants of the neighborhoods, people with the Marseille accent”, explains the director.

I wanted faces, people that I wanted to film for their first time. You have to find people who have talent and who want to do that.

Hafsia Herzi, director of “Bonne Mère”

to franceinfo

A difficult, demanding cast, especially for the main role played by Halima Benhamed. “At first I imagined an older character, remembers Hafsia Herzi. When I decided to go for a younger character, it was difficult to find a woman of that age, who accepts to be filmed, who also has a presence in the image. Because you have to want to watch someone for an hour and a half, two hours, who has a talent. “

Hafsia Herzi confirms her qualities as a director. She films her characters and her story with tenderness and a real sense of naturalism. Some family meal scenes are also reminiscent of the style Kechiche, for a film that remains bright and gives a little hope despite the present and the dark future that he wants to describe to us.

Hafsia Herzi, director of "Good mother", during the Cannes Film Festival in July 2021
Hafsia Herzi, director of “Bonne Mère”, during the Cannes Film Festival in July 2021 (MATTEU MAESTRACCI / FRANCEINFO / RADIO FRANCE)

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