Marked by the terrorist attacks that have hit France and Belgium in 2015 and in 2016, the filmmakers, the belgian Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have focused on the delicate issue of religious fanaticism in their new film, The young Ahmed, a social drama that follows the journey of a teenage muslim who switches to the islamic radicals.
The young Ahmed, who won the prize for directing at the Cannes film Festival last year, is not the first film to focus on the hot topic of the islamic radicals. But the particularity of this new feature of the Dardenne brothers (The Child, Rosetta), is that it addresses the problem under a different angle, by featuring a character barely out of childhood.
“What we were interested in this topic, it was to tell the story of a character and see if he was able to get out of his fanaticism,” said Jean-Pierre Dardenne during a telephone interview granted to the Journal this week.
“At the beginning, we had in mind a character older, 17 or 18 years old, but the problem is that we couldn’t get him out of his fanaticism. It was too romantic and it doesn’t correspond to the reality we saw around us. We therefore had the idea to try with a character younger. It is from here that is born the young Ahmed, who was 13 years old. It is said that at that age, it would still be possible to bring it out of its fanaticism. “
The brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, filmmakers
The young Ahmed thus follows the fate of Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi), a young boy with the arab-belgian 13-year-old who grew up in a muslim family that is open and tolerant, but that has shifted to the islamic radicals alongside an imam fundamentalist. After trying clumsily to kill his teacher that his imam was described as a woman unclean, Ahmed will be placed in a centre for young people radicalized.
Since the subject is delicate, particularly in Belgium, where many towns and cities have been affected by the phenomenon of islamist, the Dardenne brothers have done a lot of research and met with several stakeholders to ensure that their screenplay was faithful to the reality : “It is the fact almost for every film, but in this case, we had to do more, stresses Jean-Pierre Dardenne. The writing of this scenario has taken longer and proved more difficult than usual for us. “
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have met over a hundred actors to find the interpreter of the character of Ahmed. As they often did in their previous works, the two filmmakers, who have already won the Palme d’or at Cannes two times in the past, have finally given the main role in the film a young actor who had never played on the screen.
“What was immediately seduced in Idir Ben Addi, it is the innocence of his face,” explains Jean-Pierre Dardenne. It does not have the violence on him. We wanted to shoot a character who is still a child, but who is guilty of actions that have nothing to do with the child. A child is usually turned towards the life. Not to the death. “
After having launched The young Ahmed at the Cannes film Festival a year ago, the Dardenne brothers have presented the film in several public screenings in Belgium. Apart from a few heated discussions with some of the spectators more sensitive to the subject, they were pleased to see that the film had hit the target.
“I think people have seen the movie through the eyes of the character of the mother of Ahmed, and it is a bit of this way they had written the scenario,” observes Luc Dardenne.
“We wanted to be in the skin of a person who finds that this boy escapes us and does not return to us. At screenings of the film we made with the public, we had a lot of stories of parents who told us they had the impression that their children ran away when they fell in the religion as fanatical. This is the reason why we wanted that in the film, the character of Ahmed is closed, the prisoner in any way of the speech fanatic that has given him the imam. “
► The young Ahmed takes up the displays on Friday, July 10.