Atlal, Djamel Kerkar, Algeria, France, 2016, 111’, OV with spanish subtitles.
In this first film of his, Djamel Kerkar begins with the pain that brought death to Algeria throughout the black decade of the nineties. On screen, blurred and weak VHS images recorded in 1998, looking closely at every detail, and yet astounded, at a field of ruins beaten by the wind: wildly proliferating grass all over scattered heaps of concrete and piled up, rusty scrap metal. We are in Ouled Allal, a small town which, in the fall of 1997, witnessed a military intervention, still remembered with much sadness, which ended up destroying it. Then we see today’s Ouled Allal. Silence, always, but the wild grass, thicker, more dense, keeps growing alongside new buildings rising from the ground or still under construction, like ghostly silhouettes.
A landscape where faces and men’s tales are embodied one by one. Slowly unfolding speech outlines different Histories, keeping generations busy. Out of such fallow land, a drawing may be seen, from one time to another, of a whole world haunted by war, hindered, caught between the frozen memory of yesteryear’s fights and of the impossible, confiscated memory of the dead, of massacres left unpunished. Remembering? Leaving? A world whose History is still to be written and whose rebellions, desires and dreams could only find room in song or in those three letters written on a wall, MCA, Algier’s glorious club. And where less visible ruins of a whole society, its words left unsaid, its defeats and youth’s frustrations today, are left for us to guess. The title’s ruins: Atlal.