a Senegalese father and son put to the test of the Great War


In front of such a title, the first thought of the basic cinephile – you know, this guy with the wrong mind that we don’t do it – will go to Native, by Rachid Bouchareb, who in 2006 shook the Landerneau of national memory by recalling, in a spectacular and edifying film, the story of a few soldiers, from the colonies and protectorates of North Africa, who had taken part, in 1944, in the liberation campaign of occupied France. Bouchareb had gathered on this occasion the ban of the stardom from North African immigration (Debbouze, Zem, Naceri, Bouajila…), for a delicate exercise, where the duty of memory and the educational will weighed down a bit the gear already loaded with characters .

Said basic cinephile, maniac afflicted with a certain morality, will however make a point of discovering these Skirmisherseven if it means recognizing without difficulty that this film – undoubtedly based on the same historical and political prerequisites as the previous one – differs from it in many respects.

The time, first: that of the Great War, and no less sacred butchery, on the front of the Ardennes. The memory of another Africa then, sub-Saharan and black, in particular embodied here by Omar Sy playing the role of a Senegalese skirmisher.

Finally, the director’s personality and style. Assistant to Raymond Depardon, cinematographer at Idrissa Ouedraogo (Samba Traoré, 1992), Jacques Audiard (On my lips2001) or Olivier Nakache and Eric Tolédano (Untouchables2011), Mathieu Vadepied will have signed for his first feature film to direct a suburban film against the current (Big Life, 2015). It is the same freedom that he agrees with Skirmisherssubordinating, without clearing it, the specifications inherent in the subject (the fate of the black troops in the French army) and in the genre (the war film) to a properly romantic stake.

From Senegal to the Ardennes front

The film could just as well, like Turgenev’s novel, be called ” Father and son “. In this case, Bakary and Thierno Diallo. The second (Alassane Diong) is forcibly required in his village in Senegal to be immediately sent to the Ardennes front, believed to be 1917. The first (Omar Sy) voluntarily joins forces with him to try to save him from an otherwise certain death. , at least probable (there were, during the Great War, 200,000 Senegalese skirmishers incorporated under the flags, 30,000 lost their lives there).

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The film has two false beginnings. The first takes place around Verdun, where the land has been transformed into an ossuary and where men are actually digging up the remains of a corpse. We anticipate that we will come back. The second is a kind of prologue in the form of a Senegalese pastoral, too brief to give depth, even authenticity to the main characters who appear there – Omar Sy as a Fulani shepherd, after his childhood in Trappes and the Emissions after-sales service, it’s still a lot to ask of the viewer. But it is sufficient, and this is no doubt its true function, to show the violence of the French requisition.

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