The platform unveils this Wednesday the four episodes of “Oussekine”, the story of a case that fractured French society in the 1980s. BFMTV met the creator and his actors.
In 1994, the French rap group Assassin released “No one wants to end up like Malik Oussekine”, in their song The state kills. The phrase fell into the ear of Antoine Chevrollier, then 12 years old. Twenty-eight years later, the director who went through The Office of Legends unveils this Wednesday on Disney + the series Oussekine, based on a true storya story in four episodes on one of the most emblematic cases of police violence in contemporary French history.
This is the first time that television fiction has looked into the fate of this 22-year-old young man, who fell during the night of December 5 to 6, 1986, under the blows of a unit of police-acrobats in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The death of this son of Algerian immigrants, which occurred on the sidelines of a student demonstration, had fractured French society by leading the public debate to “social determinism” and “injustice”, as the creator of the program recounts:
“Malik Oussekine has become a sort of icon of popular protest, but I had the feeling that we didn’t know him enough,” he explains to BFMTV.com. “I believe that through his trajectory and that of his family, there was something that touched us intimately. It was a story that needed to be told, and it was time to take charge of this metastasis of French history. so that as many people as possible can finally know who Malik was, and who his family was.”
A family story
In fact, if Oussekine is an eminently political program, it presents itself above all as a family story. As the team of five screenwriters led by Antoine Chevrollier wanted: “The family and the intimate are at the heart of this series”, he continues. “By going as close as possible to this pain, to this mourning, we could seek empathy and offer it to the spectator. It is this empathy that allows us to vibrate with them, and thus to understand what they have gone through. , to finally accept that there was an injustice, state violence in the place of Malik’s death.”
It is therefore through the eyes of Malik’s sisters, Fatna and Sarah, his brothers Mohamed and Ben Amar and their mother Aïcha, that the program tells this multi-faceted affair: the media frenzy, political recovery, the fight judiciary and, above all, the double pain of being both bereaved by a police blunder and the victim of racist stigmatization. “I find that it takes a lot of courage to transform your pain into a thirst for justice”, sums up Mouna Soualem, who plays the combative Sarah. “Especially when we haven’t given this family the space to grieve in privacy.”
A factual fiction
For the story to be complete, it was preceded by a long documentation process. Lina Soualem, member of the scriptwriting team, immersed herself in the archives: “It was the first time that there was a name and a face on a victim of police violence”, she explains. “The case took on an unprecedented scale, which enabled me to find plenty of documents: press articles from the time, videos… This is precisely what struck me: if everything it exists, how is it that this history is not anchored in ours, that we do not pass it on?”
To this clearing were added the exchanges that Antoine Chevrollier had with certain protagonists of the affair: the doctor of the Samu present the evening of the death of Malik, Paul Bayzelon, eyewitness of the facts, the lawyer of the Oussekine family, Georges Kiejman (played by Kad Merad)… as well as those of Mohamed, Ben Amar and Sarah, the young man’s brothers and sisters:
“We never asked them for permission to do the series, but we all needed to know that they were with us. They very generously gave us access to anecdotes about Malik, about Aicha, who they were, what young woman was Sarah, what young men were Ben Amar and Mohamed.”
Closer to business
Valuable testimonies for the actors, who were able to feed on them to embody their characters. “Ben Amar and Mohamed came to the set a lot,” says actress Naidra Ayadi, who plays Fatna Oussekine. “Each time, they gave us little things. On my character, who is no longer there, there is very little information: it was Mohamed who gave me photos, who spoke to me of his sister.”
Sayyid El Alami, who lends his features to Malik Oussekine, also spoke with the brothers of the latter: “I spoke very little about Malik with them, I preferred to let them broach the subject. But through them I I felt who Malik was. They were very present in his education, they spent evenings talking.”
The actor seen in the Netflix series Messiah also evokes the political scope of the project, and its desire to “talk about these stories so as not to make them invisible”:
“To put on the front of the stage injustices such as that which the Oussekine family suffered with the death of Malik, is to try to repair by a certain form of memory.”
Denounce the “mold” of police violence
Naidra Ayadi also hopes that this series will be able to provide “other answers” to a question that is more topical than ever. Because Oussekine comes out after years marked by a new mobilization against police violence, in France with the Adama Traoré affair and across the Atlantic with the death of George Floyd, which has had a global echo by relaunching the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I never said to myself: ‘this is the moment’, assures Antoine Chevrollier. “What raises questions is above all the mimicry that we observe between the different cases. From 1986 to today, the system that has been put in place is similar. Defaming the family, criminalizing the victim… there is a mold that is being put in place.”
“We are coming out of an electoral period where everything and anything has been said, depending on the parties,” adds Naidra Ayadi. “‘Oussekine’ shows a classic French family who will suffer a tragedy, followed in addition by an injustice. And tells that if we always give this kind of answers, it will always arouse anger, and therefore revolts and fractures between citizens. I find it interesting to wonder about the answers we give to people who do not feel listened to, misunderstood.”