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From “Ibrahim” to “Our Brothers”, Samir Guesmi plays father and wins

Tall, supple body and long face, Samir Guesmi stands solidly in front of us, smiling and nervous. He has an easy familiarity and apologizes, during the interview, for rarely finishing his sentences. Over the years and roles, he has become a friendly and familiar presence in French cinema, but this month he embodies, in Rachid Bouchareb’s latest film, Our brothers, a completely different person: a mechanic older than him, an Algerian immigrant with a pronounced accent, hunched over by physical work, marked by the years and who literally bends before the French police.

This mechanic, in reality, is the father of Abdel Benyahia. This 19-year-old young man was shot dead in Pantin by a drunk inspector, who was not on duty, during a fight outside a bar, on the night of December 5 to 6, 1986, the same where Malik Oussekine perished under the blows of three police officers, in the Latin Quarter. “The less comfortable I am in a suit, the better off I am”, announces the actor. In jeans and a wool sailor sweater, Samir Guesmi is a classic Parisian in town. On the screen, encased in a blue workman’s jumpsuit, he appears impeded.

His body work, so striking, is “the result of an instinctive empathy for this father, he said. It is by thinking of the character that the work begins. » When he says yes to a project, it is often that this one“scared” and him “frightens”, but meeting a director may be enough to convince him. For him who had already worked for a few days with Rachid Bouchareb, on his film Outlaw (released in 2010), finding the director with a bigger role was “ happiness “.

games of chance

In recent years, Samir Guesmi has played a chief of staff (in the series Under control, for Arte), a crane operator (in The Aquatic Effect, of Sólveig Anspach), a doctor (in The Ghosts of Ishmael, by Arnaud Desplechin)… In 2013, he was nominated for the César for best actor in a supporting role for Camille redoubles, by Noémie Lvovsky. In 2020, he directed his first film, Ibrahim, a story of inheritance and filiation in which he played a single father employed in a Parisian brasserie who was struggling to raise his teenage son.

Read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Samir Guesmi, actor and director of “Ibrahim”: “My father dedicated his life to me”

At 55, he seems to be able to play everything. “The profession of actor preserves the body”, he notes. Long accustomed to supporting roles, Samir Guesmi is what the Anglo-Saxons call a “character actor”, a comedian with a familiar and recognizable face, who takes advantage of not being a “star” cinema, to blend into any universe. Is he happy ? Does he aspire to a more central status, to a more frank consecration ? Hard to say.

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