Checks and Balances

Malek Bensmail
France 2015 | 97 Min. | OmeU
Q&A with:
Malek Bensmail
» Trailer

If you talk about the system of checks and bal­ances, or the sep­a­ra­tion of powers, in Alge­ria, you are imme­di­ate­ly stamped as a provo­ca­teur, says Malek Bens­maïl. Those who are in favor of a bal­ance of power must take a clear stand against the dom­i­nat­ing state elite. This is exact­ly what the news­pa­per El Watan has done since it was found­ed, both in times of war and peace. In the spring of 2014, Bens­maïl vis­it­ed the edi­to­r­i­al office of the most impor­tant French-lan­guage news­pa­per in Alge­ria, during the cam­paign for the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which Abd al-Aziz Boute­fli­ka was cam­paign­ing for his fourth term in office. More and more people were begin­ning to regard Boute­fli­ka as a symbol of an author­i­tar­i­an polit­i­cal cli­mate, cor­rup­tion, and reform grid­lock. The ques­tion of an oppor­tu­ni­ty for change dom­i­nates the edi­tors’ dis­cus­sions. The camera accom­pa­nies the jour­nal­ists in edi­to­r­i­al staff meet­ings, shows them con­sult­ing the layout design­er, and fol­lows them in dis­cus­sions about more free­dom, reforms, and most impor­tant­ly a future with­out Boute­fli­ka. That the news­pa­per team often does not agree about the right approach or the right way for­ward make this film grip­ping from the start. For Malek Bens­maïl, the work done by the jour­nal­ists rep­re­sents a kind of social ideal – as a process of demo­c­ra­t­ic par­tic­i­pa­tion in social change. But process­es take time. The new rep­re­sen­ta­tive head­quar­ters of the news­pa­per El Watan have been under con­struc­tion for years, and although they are intend­ed as a symbol of free­dom of the press in Alge­ria, so far there are only naked walls.

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Malek Bens­maïl geb. 1966 in Alge­rien. Er studierte Film in Paris und lernte in den Lenfilm Stu­dios in Sankt Peters­burg. Filme u.a. ULYSSE (2013, Film und Instal­la­tion), SECRET WAR OF THE FLN (2012,) LA CHINE EST ENCORE LOIN (2010), LE GRAND JEU (2005), ALIENATIONS (2004), ALGERIAS BLOODY YEARS (2003), DES VACANCES MALGRÉ (2001), DÊMOKRATIA (2000), BOUDIAF (1999), DECIBLED (1998), TERRITORIES (1996).