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french of foreign descent…

is what the children of Maghrebi immigrants are considered, who were an obstacle in their parents” return to their homeland.

their parents who rebuilt france after the war in the 50s; who were invited and actively recruited by french companies to move to france then the family “regroupement” law, which brought their wives and children to france. those maghrebi and other immigrants whose children were born in france, but still considered french of foreign descent. even today.

for these children born in france, living in france already since the 1900s, where is home? home is where the heart is but where is that for them?

one filmmaker- yamina benguigui, now minister of francophone foreign affairs- in the freibeger film forum 1999 says the immigrants’ children grew up in a stopgap torn between two cultures, who despite their presence on french soil, transformed what was originally intended as the immigration of labor into immigration of human beings. their screams and their violence are extreme forms of a legitimate claim “i belong to this society!”
[this cry for inclusion into French society can be seen in kassovitz’ la haine/hate, but there are other films, too].

benguigui is not just a filmmaker, but one of those children she describes above, who saw her mother say for years ‘we’ll go home this year’ and when that time passed, she would say ‘we’ll go home next year’ and so they lived their whole lives, fingers on suitcases until time blurred the possibility of returning ‘home’.

benguigui has made films like women of islam to search her own identity, but more so for the many women living in france, estranged from their culture, to tell their own stories, because no one has heard their stories before, not the French, not their own menfolk. she also made memories of immigrants where she interviewed fathers, mothers and children to tell their own stories and experiences about living a double identity in france. her inch’allah dimanche explores the world of zouina, a young Algerian wife who hasn’t seen her husband for 10 years and comes to france during the ‘regroupement’ period, and must assimilate as best as she can. she succeeds, as does aicha in benguigui’s most recent film aicha. aicha is a young arab women living in france, too, torn between her parents’ world and her own as a French citizen, and as a muslim girl, unable to reap full benefits of liberte, egalite, fraternite until she leaves the fold.

but others cannot be aicha and zouina and some cannot or may not be able to assimilate as kassovitz’s la haine shows. what happens to those who cannot straddle 2 or more identities or carry injustice or discrimination on their shoulders?

is there a melting pot for those who wish to stand their ground as muslim? or a muslim veiled female?


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