Hajj movie wins widespread acclaim

When he wrote Le Grand Voyage six years ago, director Ismael Ferroukhi never imagined that political events in Europe would make his debut work so timely.

    The director said he wanted people to feel what Makka is like

    But the road movie with its moving tale of a Moroccan

    immigrant father who makes his Westernised son drive him from a

    French suburb to Makka for the hajj pilgrimage has won widespread


    Earlier this year it won plaudits at the Venice and Toronto film

    festivals and l

    ast week saw its general release in France.

    The release comes at a time when relations

    with the growing Muslim minority in Europe has become a critical

    issue as the European Union readies itself for the possible

    entry of Turkey.

    France recently banned the veil and

    other religious emblems in state schools.

    "By chance it's very relevant right now, but I wrote it six

    years ago before the September 11 attacks or the debate about

    Turkey in the EU," Ferroukhi said at 

    the Dubai International Film Festival where it wowed audiences

    as the opening movie.

    Made on a tiny budget of $1.4 million,

    the Moroccan-born director spent six years planning and shooting the f

    ilm in France, Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco and Saudi


    Father-son conflict

    The subject matter made getting funding difficult, he said.

    Relations with Europe's growing
    Muslim minority is a key issue

    Rather than preach about how Islam in

    Europe should or should not be, Ferroukhi's camera offers a

    warts-and-all view of Muslims, through a devout father who

    retains his traditional values and his son who wants nothing to

    do with Islam.


    "It's a very delicate subject and there are many traps -

    cliche images and rhetoric about Islam as good or bad. I wanted

    to avoid all that," he said.

    "I wanted only to observe, not to tell people what to think.

    If I took sides no one would watch it, and it would be a


    Both the hot-headed son and the stoic father, solid in his

    faith, find they have something to learn from each other before

    arriving in a crowded and chaotic Makka, where non-Muslims are

    forbidden to go.

    "I wanted to show inside, I wanted people to understand and

    feel what Makka is like. But I had to show it as it is. I didn't

    want to lie," said Ferroukhi, adding he was surprised the Saudi

    authorities gave him permission to film in Islam's holiest city.

    The ending avoids having the son, actor Nicolas Cazale, accept

    his father's vision of Islam, but he still emerges a

    changed, more moral person.


    "It's not a conversion, I'm not interested in that. I'm more

    interested in people's humanity and having hope," Ferroukhi, 42,



    "It's really about spirituality, not religion, and that's

    very different. Everybody can find their religion in this


    Film director Ismael Ferroukhi

    "It's really about spirituality, not religion, and that's

    very different. Everybody can find their religion in this


    Throughout the film the son speaks French and the father

    speaks Arabic, with only a few poignant moments where they allow

    themselves to cross the cultural divide.

    Ferroukhi, who moved to France as a child, said he wanted to

    tell a tale about generational misunderstandings in general, not

    necessarily directed at Muslims in the West.

    "It was not meant to be especially about Muslims, I just

    took this angle because I know this one," he said.

    But he was apprehensive about the reaction of his own father

    to seeing the film. "My father saw it three days ago but I

    haven't heard what he thought yet. He speaks mainly Arabic, I

    speak mainly French. It's like the film."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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