Elias Belkeddar, the French-Algerian director behind the successful DJ Snake music video “Disco Maghreb,” is now captivating audiences with his first feature film, Omar la Fraise (The King of Algiers). Shot in Algeria and starring Benoît Magimel and Reda Kateb, the film offers a unique perspective on the country, blending romance and crime. In this exclusive interview, we dive into Belkeddar’s inspiration, the filming locations, and the underlying themes of his captivating debut.
A Tribute to Algeria:
Belkeddar shares his initial motivation for creating Omar la Fraise, which was to showcase the beauty and culture of Algeria from a personal perspective. He highlights the country’s richness, aesthetics, and the incredible people who inspired him. By paying tribute to Algeria through his film, Belkeddar aims to share his deep affection for the country and shed light on its often underrepresented aspects.
Flipping the Script:
The director explains how he wanted to explore a fresh angle by depicting French individuals on the run in Algeria. In France, Algerians are often portrayed as problematic, so Belkeddar sought to reverse this narrative and examine the experiences of French people in Algeria. By doing so, he aims to offer a contemporary story that goes beyond social commentary, combining entertainment with a deeper exploration of history and the power of image.
Captivating Filming Locations:
Belkeddar takes us behind the scenes of Omar la Fraise’s shooting locations, which include Ouargla in the Sahara and various working-class districts of Algiers. The director emphasizes the significance of showcasing places like Bab el Oued and Climat de France, which had previously received little on-screen exposure. These sites provide glimpses into another Algeria, one marked by the remnants and scars of its past. Belkeddar also expresses his gratitude to the people who welcomed the film crew into their homes for the first time, creating an authentic and memorable experience.
A Love Story with Depth:
Omar la Fraise is not just a crime film; it is primarily a story about love and exile. Belkeddar delves into the film’s central themes, emphasizing the bromance between the two male protagonists and the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. He highlights that the portrayal of a thug is a narrative tool, serving as a vehicle for exploring love and exile. The enigmatic figure of the King of Algiers adds a poetic touch, gradually unveiling the truth behind the initial façade.
Stellar Casting Choices:
Belkeddar expresses his admiration for the talented actors Benoît Magimel and Reda Kateb, who quickly agreed to be part of the project. Their remarkable performances contribute to the film’s success, while Meriem Amiar, a young actor from Oran, adds further authenticity to the cast, bringing recognition from audiences in Algeria.
Elias Belkeddar’s Omar la Fraise (The King of Algiers) takes viewers on an evocative journey through Algeria, offering a fresh perspective on the country’s culture and history. Through a captivating love story and unique characters, the film transcends social commentary, exploring themes of love and exile with a touch of poetry. With a stellar cast and breathtaking filming locations, Omar la Fraise is a must-watch for cinema enthusiasts seeking an engaging and thought-provoking cinematic experience.