London River (12a)

Feb 22, 2012
Cranbrook Film Society

There have been several films about the events of 9/11, but it has taken an outsider, the French director Rachid Bouchareb to make a film about the 7/7 bombings in London 2005. It depicts every parent’s worst nightmare. Elisabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is tending her market garden on Guernsey when she hears the news of the bombings on the radio and fails to get in touch with her daughter living in north London. She decides to go to London, desperate for reassurance that all is well. All she has is an address as a starting point for her search.

Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté) is a migrant worker from Mali, but now living in France where he works in forestry, tending trees. He arrives in London trying to find his estranged son. He and Elisabeth meet and realise that their quests are connected; their shared anxiety draws them together into a reluctant friendship as they search for the truth, learning in the process about their childrens’ lives. Their performances are touching and realistic.

Rachid Bouchareb, whose parents are Algerian, has been preoccupied by the recent history of Algeria and the effects of French colonial occupation, reflected in his recent films, Days of Glory and Hors de la loi (filmed either side of London River). He claims to be influenced by British filmmakers Stephen Frears and Mike Leigh. He said of Ousmane and Elisabeth, “They incarnate two different philosophies in their bodies. For Muslims, in the face of fate there is often acceptance. We say, ‘It is written.’ That is where the serenity in Ousmane comes from. For Elizabeth, nothing is written, everything is intolerable and her emotions are evident. As a Frenchman with Algerian ancestry, I am torn between these philosophies.”

The actor Sotigui Kouyaté was ill during the filming and died in April 2010.

Cast: Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyaté

Rachid Bouchareb | Algeria, France, UK | 2009 | 87 minutes | 12a


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