A thought about stories, being that we are all human (well most of us), stories are predominately universal. And despite contextual details, at their core, historically cyclical. Regardless of our advanced ability to record in ever more increasing formats, the errors of our ways, the inhumanity that Man inflicts upon Man continues it’s carbon copy to digitally cloned ignorant stupidity.
This happens to such an extent that it cannot be a mistake, so it must be deliberate. Mathieu Kassovitz’s movie ‘Rebellion’ (which he describes as ‘a grown up version of La Haine’ his 1995 visual opus) admirably attempts to uncover the truth in one such case, the killing of New Caledonian Kanak freedom fighters at the hands of the French Army, and the potential imminent death of the entire Kanak culture.
Considering the topic of the movie, Mathieu in person, is very jovial, almost playfully mischievous. Happily flicking from laser sharp focus on a topic, to cheeky quips ‘I am Mathieu Kassovitz from France’ whilst introducing ourselves. There’s a sense of relaxed ease about dealing with various subjects. He spent ten years developing the story behind ‘Rebellion’, so you know he doesn’t throw out views glibly, the truth behind the message is far too important for that.
Maybe such playful behaviour serves an integral purpose, the laughs sugar coating the bitter tasting medicine that we all badly need to get better, the contemporary medium of movie enabling us to digest something quite unpalatable, and opposite to who we actually believe we are. Indeed, maybe said format and story acts like a mirror to our psyche, and we don’t like what we are seeing. That would explain cinemas full of candy flossed sugary beams of light propagating forgetfulness and indifference, whilst works such as ‘Rebellion’ get minimal releases.
Mathieu is aware of and understands this, as ‘when people are down, you don’t want to hear the government is lying.’ But why are we all ‘down’? Probably because of a global recession where all of our governments decided (without our vote/approval) to bail out their friends and cohorts (bankers), whilst their other friends (mainstream media) present to the beat of propaganda, the apparent severity of it everyday. This is all a lie of course, there is a huge amount of money still around, and the truth is, our governments are lying to us.
Indeed, it is governments of varying forms that are the singular continuity to all the greater historical tragedies in our lives. It is governments, not individuals that proclaim wars, invade countries, kill for ideologies, ignore justice/equality, suppress/kettle criticism and siphon away the wealth of nations for the benefit of chosen individuals. So why would people care about a story that happened ‘twenty years ago, 25,000 kilometres away.’ Probably because repeat versions of that story are no doubt happening today, this very minute, we just haven’t heard about them yet. Also, to not care, is complicity to their actions.
In 1995 Mathieu directed La Haine as a reaction to riots ignited by the death of Makomé M Bowole, who was shot, whilst handcuffed in French police custody. ‘La Haine was about police brutality, this one is about government brutality.’ In ‘Rebellion’ the pawn pieces are no longer the police force, and are now the army and media, being moved around the board at their masters behest. And the prize to be gained at the end of this ‘game’? Careers, power, and wealth. It is a political thriller, but we are horrifically reminded that it actually happened.
Producing a movie such as this ‘becomes like a very important piece of journalism’, ‘you’re able to revise history, or a point of view, or way of thinking.’ ‘It’s a great responsibility, but it is also the best thing, you cannot get a bigger kick than that.’ ‘That kind of movie requires patience and intelligence.’ ‘It’s a difficult movie to sell.’ But while smiling ‘I like to confront idea’s and to shock people’. ‘Movies are a great vehicle for that’. And indeed they are. In my previous review for ‘Rebellion’, you’ll see how Mathieu successfully used all his filmic knowledge and ability to create an powerful emotional feature that seamlessly blends the research of a documentary with mainstream movies. But ‘you need to be able to sit down for two hours, and try to think about what you are seeing, which is not what movies do today’.
Such success in production and the finished product, doesn’t necessarily mean success financially. Despite excellent reviews everywhere, the French public have turned their back on the movie. ‘French people are not French people any more’. Mathieu equates this to five years under the governance of ex French President Nicolas Sarkozy (‘killing their spirit’), whom he has been a vocal critic of. Maybe it’s just too much medicine for this present moment. ‘I didn’t show torture, I didn’t really show the violence, I didn’t go for that. I wanted to make a movie really balanced, so that I wouldn’t have that kind of problems like censorship’.
Inspired in the techniques, sense of balance and involvement of actual local people as actors by such luminaries as Paul Greengrass/Bloody Sunday and Ken Loach. Mathieu raised a valid point about people from outside the story and historical environment being able to bring an emotive clarity and impartiality to the work, because ‘you don’t find stories, stories find you’, as this story did when his father passed a report to him. His father, also a movie director, fled from a Communist oppression regime in Hungary. It is somewhat clear where Mathieu’s fight for humanity and against oppressive forces comes from.
But outside the world of the movie auditorium, his chosen battlefield to pitch his flag of Truth, another battle he has to take on is the human trait of self censorship, and unwillingness to face up to the truth, such as back in his homeland. Even the Kanaks have experienced censorship on the Island, with cinema owners refusing to screen the movie for fear of the locals burning down the building in protest. There is little doubt it was a politically motivated decision.
Thankfully in 2014, the Kanaks will vote on Independence for the Island, when he thinks the movie will be revealed and people will then face up to their past.
Mathieu though living mostly in the USA, continues his support of fearless story telling through his production company MNP Entreprise with not only ‘Rebellion’ itself, but also co producing ‘Johnny Mad Dog’ directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, which was an brutal, unflinching look at Liberian child soldiers.
Fortunately there seems to be an ever growing number of visual (and musical) bards willing to inform us of the machinations of our so called leaders and their mainstream media vassals. This can only be a great thing, however it will only help us if we are willing to take the medicine, remove the hooded gauze of government propaganda, and stare at the Truth.
Rebellion is currently on release in the UK through Lionsgate.