French-Algerian director Nina Khada ’s new film “Je me suis mordue la langue” (I bit my tongue) won the Silver Poulain for Short Documentary at the 27th Pan-African Film and Television Festival (Fespaco) in Ouagadougou.
“I bit my tongue”, a quest for identity
In this 25-minute first-person documentary the film-maker tries to rediscover the language of her childhood, the Arabic dialect she has lost over the years having lived all her life in France. “A real quest for identity, place and self-realisation”, the young woman travels through the Tunisian capital as a “substitute for the country of her ancestors.” She shares her search with passers-by and films their answers, hoping to find some trace of her identity.
Sometimes filmed at night, this very personal journey is made up of encounters with people living in Tunis’ working-class districts: “an old lady recommends she return to Algeria, that a language cannot be forgotten. Children advise her to speak to people in the street to relearn the language, while others simply suggest she sing. […] All the people she talks to, of any age, believe losing your language is like losing your memory, they don’t really understand how you can…be so cut off from your own people.”
In an interview with Liberté Algeria, Nina Khada explained her thinking: “I was born in France in the early 1990’s. When I went to Algeria for the first time I was twenty. After the first trip, there was a distance, a kind of psychological barrier. I couldn’t go to Algeria any more or feel at home there. A few years later, I conducted a documentary workshop with young people in Tunis. The similarity of Algerian and Tunisian cultures and languages made me feel as if I were staying with my cousins’… it was familiar without being quite at home. And that made me want to make a film, to question this difference, this detour. I went back to Tunis to shoot the film in the summer of 2018.”
Born in Nancy in 1991 to Algerian parents, Nina Khada is director, scriptwriter, camera-person and editor. She graduated in “Documentary film professions” from the University of Aix-Marseille. She made her first short documentary, “Fatima”, in 2015, based on archives of colonial memory and her grandmother’s journey. Released in 2020, “I Bite My Tongue” has already been shown at some fifteen film events around the world.
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