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2009 Festival Feature Films (March 27-29)

J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka

French director Serge Le Péron and actress Josiane Balasko present J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka

director Serge Le Péron with Saïd Smihi screenplay Serge Le Péron, Frédérique Moreau, Saïd Smihi starring Charles Berling, Simon Abkarian, Josiane Balasko running time 1 h 41 min general audience


January 1966. In a Paris apartment the police find the corpse of Georges Figon, the man who blew the whistle on the Ben Barka scandal that shook up the Gaullist government.

A year earlier … Figon, tired of dubious deals and petty scams, is on the hunt for a lucrative project. Connected to the underworld since his time in jail, he is put in charge of a substantial mission: to produce a documentary about decolonization, written by Marguerite Duras and directed by Georges Franju, assisted by the famous Moroccan militant leader, Mehdi Ben Barka, hired as the film’s historical adviser.

Unknown to most of those involved in the film’s production, the project is a trap.

Serge Le Péron

2008 Françoise Dolto, le désir de vivre
2005 J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka
2003 Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush
2001 Léaud l’unique
2000 L’Affaire Marcorelle
1990 Sésame, ouvre-toi!
1984 Laisse béton
1976 L’Olivier

Josiane Balasko

For selected filmography see Cliente.

Charles Berling

selected films since 1996

2008 L’Abolition by Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe
  Par suite d'un arrêt de travail by Frédéric Andréi
  L’Heure d’été by Olivier Assayas
  Caos calmo by Antonio Luigi Grimaldi
2007 Les Murs porteurs by Cyril Gelbat
2006 Je pense à vous by Pascal Bonitzer
  L’Homme de sa vie by Zabou Breitman
2005 J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka by Serge Le Péron
  La Maison de Nina by Richard Dembo
  Grabuge! by Jean-Pierre Mocky
  Un fil à la patte by Michel Deville
2004 Agents secrets by Frédéric Schoendoerffer
2003 Je reste! by Diane Kurys
  Le Soleil assassiné by Abdelkrim Bahloul
  Père et fils by Michel Boujenah
2002 Jean Moulin by Yves Boisset
  Cravate club by Frédéric Jardin
  Demonlover by Olivier Assayas
  Filles perdues, cheveux gras by Claude Duty
2001 Comment j’ai tué mon père by Anne Fontaine
  Un jeu d’enfants by Laurent Tuel
  Les Âmes fortes by Raoul Ruiz
  15 août by Patrick Alessandrin
  Fils de zup by Gilles Romera
2000 Comédie de l’innocence by Raoul Ruiz
  Les Destinées sentimentales by Olivier Assayas
  Stardom by Denys Arcand
  Scènes de crimes by Frédéric Schoendoerffer
  Une affaire de goût by Bernard Rapp
1999 Fait d’hiver by Robert Enrico
  Un pont entre deux rives by Frédéric Auburtin
1998 L’Ennui by Cédric Kahn
  L’Inconnu de Strasbourg by Valeria Sarmiento
  Ceux qui m’aiment prendront le train by Patrice Chéreau
  Un dimanche matin à Marseille: Renaud by Mario Fanfani
  La Cloche
1997 Nettoyage à sec by Anne Fontaine
  Obsession by Peter Sehr
  Les Palmes de M. Schutz by Claude Pinoteau
1996 Love, etc. by Marion Vernoux
  Ridicule by Patrice Leconte

Simon Abkarian

selected films since 1989

2009 Rage by Sally Potter
2008 Le Chant des mariées by Karin Albou
  Musée haut musée bas by Jean-Michel Ribes
  Secret défense by Philippe Haïm
  C’est dimanche! by Samir Guesmi
  Khamsa by Karim Dridi
  Shiva by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz
2007 L’Affaire Ben Barka by Jean-Pierre Sinapi
  Rendition by Gavin Hood
  La Disparue de Deauville by Sophie Marceau
  Casino Royale by Martin Campbell
  Persépolis (voice) by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
2006 Le Serpent by Eric Barbier
  Aurore, une autre histoire by Henri Kebabdjian
  Hier encore by Rima Samman
  Le Voyage en Arménie by Robert Guédiguian
  Petites révélations by Marie Vermillard
2005 S.A.C.: Des hommes dans l’ombre by Thomas Vincent
  J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka by Serge Le Péron
  Zaïna, cavalière de l’Atlas by Bourlem Guerdjou
  Le Démon de midi by Marie-Pascale Osterrieth
  Les Mâtines by Annick Raoul
  Dans tes rêves by Denis Thybaud
  Les mauvais joueurs by Frédéric Balekdjian
2004 Ve’Lakhta Lehe Isha by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz
  Yes by Sally Potter
2003 La Légende de Parva by Jean Cubaud
2002 Aram by Robert Kechichian
  The Truth About Charlie by Jonathan Demme
  Ni pour, ni contre (bien au contraire) by Cédric Klapisch
  Un monde presque paisible by Michel Deville
  Ararat by Atom Egoyan
1999 Lila Lili by Marie Vermillard
1997 J’irai au paradis car l’enfer est ici by Xavier Durringer
  Le Silence de Rak by Christophe Loizillon
  Tempête dans un verre d’eau by Arnold Barkus
1996 Chacun cherche son chat by Cédric Klapisch
1992 Rien du tout by Cédric Klapisch
1991 Au fil de ma vie by Charlie Sansonetti
1989 Ce qui me meut by Cédric Klapisch

Interview with director Serge Le Péron

Why make this movie now?
Principally for political reasons. I think it is important to remember that period, the 1960s, in order to better understand our own time, the 21st century. J’ai vu tuer Ben BarkaWe are in a time now when the leaders of the Third World are taking a very strong anti-Western position. I think it’s important, therefore, to talk about a period when Third World leaders like Ben Barka, Lumumba, Allende, had a universal view of world development. One of the reasons for the current gap between North and South, between the Third World and the West, comes from the fact that we assassinated people like Lumumba, Ben Barka and Allende. The Ben Barka affair speaks of a time when there was this alliance, this deep friendship between Western intellectuals — those who wanted to change the Western world — and the intellectuals and leaders of the Third World.

During these past 40 years, one cannot say that much of the truth was known about the fate of Ben Barka. What is sure is that many things said at the time were untrue. But we know more now. Moroccan spies have talked. We know who was in Rabat at the time, in Paris, which secret service was in charge of the plot. We know, for instance, that the CIA was involved. In 1965, Ben Barka’s disappearance was considered as a Franco-Moroccan affair, but after all these years, we understand that it was more of a universal affair, that Mehdi Ben Barka was not killed only because he was against the ‘politique’ of Morocco at that time. Ben Barka was a leader of a Third World organization called the Tricontinental.

Were there problems in funding the film?
It was a little complicated at first in France to get the financing. Then, in fact, things became easier when Morocco came on board for the co-production of the film, as if the French institutions were reassured to see that the Moroccan regime of today was ready to examine at least part of the truth about the abduction of Mehdi Ben Barka. J’ai vu tuer Ben BarkaThe thing is that in France we have not talked much about this period of colonization and especially decolonization, in films, television or novels. ... There were very few films made about the Algerian War, about the war in Indochina, about all these movements of decolonization which happened in the 1950s and 1960s. That is why today there is an explosion, a return of the repressed. The things we have hidden throughout the years now have to come out. Just think of the recent success of Days of Glory, which tells the story of the Senegalese infantrymen, that is to say, the men who came from Algeria, Morocco and Western Africa to liberate France from the Nazis. We never spoke about them either before.

In France, my film was rather well received by critics on both right and left sides. I think that people liked the form I chose as well — the fact that it was a film which talked about political matters while using an accessible cinematic form: a “film noir,” a thriller. The actual facts of the Ben Barka affair were in themselves thrilling, so it wasn’t hard to reproduce them as a “film noir.” There is also the fact that the release happened in France at a period when we wanted to talk about decolonization. The film came out during the riots in France. I went to a lot of cinemas to present it to the audience and to talk about it. In these suburbs, which were burning, you could see the discussion was about what has happened between France and the countries from where all these kids in the suburbs and their parents come from. There was this desire to know more, because the history books at school tell them very little on the matter.




Virginia Commonwealth University University of Richmond University of Richmond