After making his debut with a feature film of those so-called feel-good with pedigree, ‘La mélodie’, the Frenchman of Algerian origin Rachid Hami jumps into what is his first and ambitious production, ‘A matter of honor’. Shown in the Horizons section of the 79th Venice Festival, where he just presented his debut four years ago, it is based on a real case that tragically happened to his brother, the Jallal Hami matter, which had its judicial resolution in November 2020.
On October 30, 2012, Jallal Hami, a cadet of the French Army at the Saint-Cyr Military School and considered one of the most “bright” of his class, died accidentally in one of the hazing what the second grade cadets did to the first graders. Considered a ‘tradition’, the young Hami ended up drowning in this hazing and her body was found near a bank. A highly hierarchical institution, the Army was reluctant to both internal and external investigation.
Nonetheless, seven soldiers, including a general (colonel at the time of the event), were prosecuted for homicide before the Rennes criminal court. The judicial process lasted eight years, because “the institution of Saint-Cyr, known for its conservatism, even for its retrograde values, does not like people to interfere in its internal life,” Le Monde wrote at the time. Three of the defendants were convicted of manslaughter and four were acquitted.
However, jail sentences did not reach any per year, being excessively lax. After the verdict was announced, Rachid Hami described the decision of the judges as “betrayal” of his brother, Justice and the values of the French Republic. Two years later, the filmmaker pays tribute to him with a film that, paradoxically, is not born from the bowels, but rather from the filmmaker’s own cathartic need.
A film with a solemn spirit that avoids any revenge
Shot with an exceptional sobriety with which he knows how to capture the introspection and depth of his protagonists, Hami, who signs the script along with Ollivier Pourriol, is capable of bringing several clues to his film. With the Jallal Hami affair, who is renowned as Aïssa Saïdi in the film, as the backbone, the filmmaker criticizes the corruption of the Army, the power classes and the seams of the system; he also exposes the racism present in French society and the difficult fit of part of the population of foreign origin in the suburbs.
In addition, he explores the complexity of his protagonists, whom he knows how to show, delving into their contradictions and their actions. An interesting relationship between brothers is shown, who could not be more opposite, as well as the change of heart of the older brother, a stray bullet, when the little one dies. On the other hand, he breaks prejudices about that part of the French population of Maghrebi origin and Muslim religion regarding their beliefs in the republican values of the Gallic country. And he does it with a family that seeks justice and the restoration of honor, since it seeks that the young cadet be buried with honors, since his death occurred in a military act, no matter how hazing it was.
Hami avoids Manichaeism and pays heartfelt tribute to his brother and also to the values and ideals in which he believed, which requires an incredible assertiveness exercise on the part of the filmmaker. For this reason, ‘A question of honor’ avoids the tone of a denouncing cinema to situate itself in a type of cinema with a more classic bearing and solemn gaze. Hence, we are facing what may be the filmmaker’s most ambitious production. Supported by magnificent actors: Karim Leklou He has already proven in several projects to be a magnificent actor who should aspire to break the archetype of a masterful secondary and that with this leading role he shows it. A sublime cinematographic exercise and an authentic gesture of love from a brother.
The best: Who flees from Manichaeism and vindicates the sense of honor and the spirit of the French Republic.
Worst: There are moments in which it disperses in its plot.