How did this project end up in your hands and why, you who are a singer but not an actress, did you accept it?
Amel Bent When I was sent the script, I put it in the trash (laughs). It was a first role, and I am actually not an actress. My manager protested and insisted. I was about to feed my children, I had the pots on the stove, and I was mostly looking for reasons not to get involved in this project. But at the end of the fifteenth page, upset, with tears in my eyes, I devoured the script, and shouted to my husband to take care of the children. I didn’t know Malika Bellaribi, and her story touched me. Then, I fell in love with the producers, Jean-Lou Monthieux and France Zobba, of Eloa Prod, who try to defend the representation of minorities on television. They lead a fight, without violence, with humanism and benevolence. For them, I was Malika. I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to it. Once I said yes, I still had some testing!
At no time does Malika inspire pity, because she is fighting.
Malika has an incredible story: following an accident, she cannot go to school, is condemned not to walk and not to have children. And it transcends all these fatalities …
Amel Bent It is because this story is not at all miserable, whereas all the markers could lead to it: Malika is Arab, she comes from the suburbs, she is disabled … And, finally, at no time does she inspire pity , because she fights. And that’s where I kind of found myself in her. There are plenty of Malikas. At the same time, his life is unique, his trajectory is unique. Like all human history.
The suburbs are still stigmatized, but is it just a place where destinies are forged?
Amel Bent It’s a decor like any other! I come from there, and I did not suffer from it, moreover. They tried to train me in these images, as soon as I gave interviews. I was asked if I was afraid of the grown-ups in the neighborhood, if I could dress as I wanted… At home, the neighborhood grown-ups took me to the castings when my mother didn’t have time, gave me CDs. .
La Courneuve is my region. It was there that I became who I am.
For the documentary “Secrets of the Sleeping Beauty”, on France 3, you wrote a text about La Courneuve, where you grew up. And you say: “It’s been 17 years since I left La Courneuve. And this city no longer belongs to me. But I will always belong to him. Is that what sums up your relationship with the suburbs? This belonging to a territory?
Amel Bent La Courneuve is my region. This city, she built me, that’s where I became who I am, and I think I’m a good person. I owe a little of what I am to all the people who made this city, who still do it. It no longer belongs to me because I no longer live there. But there is a part of me forever in these bars. If only through cultural openness: I had the impression of having traveled the world in my neighborhood. I don’t have an ounce of racism in my body, because I had the chance to grow up with all communities, all religions and non-religious people. This promiscuity, it will have taught us to live together. Maybe in spite of ourselves, because we didn’t know we had other options at the time. But these are assets.
In the film, Malika is rejected in a very brutal way by her mother. How do you react to it?
Amel Bent His relationship with his mother is the basis of his destruction. She says her mother has had a very difficult life, and that she was built on this rejection. The conduct of Malika’s mother goes beyond the limits of what I can understand or intellectualize. I grew up in a matriarchy: my grandmother was widowed at 30, and I was raised by a single woman… So I was loved, brought up, built by women. When my own daughter has a fever, I tremble from head to toe. And in Malika’s story, it is the dad who gives love and the mom who constantly sends malevolence, wickedness, contempt. I don’t even judge her: it’s beyond my competence. Okay, she found herself alone with four children, including a disabled girl, but why so much contempt, meanness?
Transmission is the common thread of this film. Awaken even a single consciousness.
The film is constructed by flashbacks, because Malika wants to bring Fadi, a teenager from her neighborhood, to her choir…
Amel Bent Transmission is the real common thread of this film. Awaken even one consciousness, change the fate of at least one person. And that’s what Malika does, in real life. Fadi was invented, but she has to meet lots of boys like him. A while back, a reporter asked me if anyone had changed my life. And no, actually. I haven’t met a person who changed my destiny. I have met dozens and dozens of people. And that’s what is great: we are the sum of so many things, so many encounters. Just like Malika. And that’s the real moral for me.
Interview by Caroline Constant
The white sandals, by Christian Faure, with Amel Bent. To see on France 2, January 25, at 9h5pm.