Rhim Ibrir is dreaming.
“It is beautiful. It is outside. It is not cold and it is not too warm. It is a small garden. The smell of the plants, of mint. You can hear the birds. It is a garden surrounded by a hedge. Behind me is a large window belonging to the living room. From the living room you walk out the door into the well-tended, thoughtfully laid out garden. What do I see in front of me? Trees, a few children’s toys, a two-seated garden bench. There’s no one there but me. It’s like taking a little break to have a coffee.”
We met Rhim Ibrir in 2014 when we were doing research for HAVARIE. Although she already lived in Châtellerault then, we found her by way of Algeria, by way of stories about her. It’s summertime. We are shooting in Châtellerault. We shoot footage that won’t be seen in the film, though it will be heard: fragmentary memories of Algeria, the serious illness, the treatment, the waiting. Waiting for her next operation, for her residency permit, for her husband, for the other, real, “ordinary” life.
Completing HAVARIE brings variety into the endless holding patterns. Rhim Ibrir travels to film festivals, watches films, takes a liking to the life of the cinema. And the camera, too, takes a liking to Rhim Ibrir. Something remains, an intensity as an imprint in visual memory.
“It’s not the kind of film that tells you what to do because the story says so.”
Rhim Ibrir looks into the camera.
“I’m laughing. You can see it in my eyes – You can tell right away by looking at my face whether I’m doing well or not. Everyone says so. But that also means: I can’t hide anything.”
Rhim Ibrir becomes the fictional character Zohra Hamadi. Zohra Hamadi travels to Châtellerault, gets off the bus at the “Europe”bus stop and meets Rhim Ibrir. They like each other. The beginning of a new film.
Rehearsing scenes. Locations. Community. Casting.
The market. The shopping centre. The recreation area. The hospital.
Friends. Family. The doctor. The bus driver. Colleagues.
Conflating the documentary and the fictional.
Rhim Ibrir talks about Zohra Hamadi.
"It’s not the kind of film that tells you what to do because the story says so. And later, when the film is over, “Zohra” goes back to her life and that’s it. But here—she’s enacting all this, but it’s not an act for her. For her, what she’s playing is real. The film does not end. Even when she leaves the film, she’s still living what she played.“