Oussekine on Disney+ is already the best French series of 2022

35 years after the death of this young student of Algerian origin, killed by police in Paris, fiction finally takes hold of this affair which shook French society at the time. Available on Disney+, Oussekine is a remarkable mini-series, as moving as it is revolting, from which you will not emerge unscathed.

On the evening of December 5, 1986, Malik Oussekine hurriedly left his home. He’s late for a jazz concert he thinks “historical”, in a Parisian club. But this cheerful and curious 22-year-old student will never return home. Beaten and left for dead by the police in a building hall, Malik Oussekine will become the symbol of the fight against police violence.

For the first time, his story is brought to life on the small screen, in a mini-series previewed at the Séries Mania festival last March and now available on Disney+since this Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

A careful reconstruction

It is never easy to tell recent history in fiction, especially when some protagonists are still alive. But Oussekine brilliantly proves that the exercise can be performed with disconcerting ease. Created and co-written by Antoine Chevrollier, talented director for The Office of Legends Where dark baron, this drama opts for stunning realism. Thanks to an important research work, the words are transcribed almost to the word and the Oussekine family largely took part in the creation, which gives an unprecedented authenticity to the fiction.

The series focuses in particular on the political consequences of the death of Malik Oussekine // Source: Disney+
The series focuses in particular on the political consequences of the death of Malik Oussekine // Source: Disney+

The reconstruction is sincere and meticulous, including in the sets, the costumes or the general effervescence of the 1980s. We sing at the top of our lungs Aziza of Daniel Balavoine while driving in an old Renault, the landline telephones have a rotary dial and the student movements are energetic, while François Mitterrand is in power. Taken in the vitality of these four episodes, we quickly have the impression of (re)living these pivotal years as if we were there.

Oussekine holds up a mirror to 2022

A necessary precision, for a major affair of recent French history. At the time, the atmosphere was strained by the Devaquet bill, which aimed to reform the university. Student demonstrations are multiplying and repression is becoming stronger. It is in this context that Malik Oussekine lost his life, caught up in a militant movement in which he did not even participate.

Oussekine addresses with accuracy and empathy the trajectory of a broken family // Source: Disney+
Oussekine addresses with accuracy and empathy the trajectory of a broken family // Source: Disney+

The mini-series clearly demonstrates the extent to which the case is instrumentalized from the start. The police accuse Malik of being a terrorist and believe that the young man’s kidney failure explains his death. François Mitterrand himself goes to the Oussekine family home, in front of television cameras. In the streets, silent marches and protests spread. 35 years later, the case strangely resonates with recent acts of police violence. By drawing a chilling parallel with our current society, Oussekine goes straight to the heart, while awakening our political conscience.

Impeccable storytelling

The four one-hour episodes are all the more powerful because the narration is perfectly balanced between the intimate and the political, between the personal and the universal. Thanks to clever flashbacks and subtle references, the series addresses as much the drama of the Algerians drowned in the Seine on October 17, 1961 as the ordinary racism of a divided society. Oscillating between the mysteries of the police, the legal or political chronicle and the family drama, Oussekine always manages to find the right balance to captivate us, without ever letting go.

The solar Sayyid El Alami is excellent in the role of Malik Oussekine // Source: Disney+
The solar Sayyid El Alami is excellent in the role of Malik Oussekine // Source: Disney+

As a common thread, the mini-series also takes place on the night of Malik Oussekine’s death. The imminent death of this young man, who at first walks calmly through the streets of Paris, cigarette in hand, in the midst of chaos and police on motorcycles, is striking. If it makes it possible to skillfully introduce the witnesses of this murderous night, this narration also arises as a macabre and unjust sentence, which we witness, powerless.

The portrait of a grieving family

But Oussekine does not content itself with evoking a political context or recounting an evening of horror. She does not bear her name for nothing: Malik’s family is at the heart of the mini-series. Endearing and moving, the siblings try to obtain justice for this murdered brother, while facing unimaginable grief. The ending of the first episode, filled with humanity and empathy, will bring many tears, as will the other three chapters, all heartbreaking.

Oussekine overwhelms us from the first episode, thanks to a deeply human narration // Source: Disney+
Oussekine overwhelms us from the first episode, thanks to a deeply human narration // Source: Disney+

Humiliated, attacked and insulted for months, the Oussekine family had to rebuild itself, little by little. The mini-series sets out to tell the individual destinies of this mother and these brothers and sisters, who bear the weight of French and Algerian traditions on their shoulders. Malik, Ben Amar, Mohamed, Sarah and Fatna must therefore come to terms with a difficult dual nationality. Their mother, Aicha, sums up their situation as much as the prevailing racism in a poignant monologue: “They think they are French. It’s our fault, we made them believe it was possible. »

Great actors

Oussekine also benefits from a major asset: a cast of exceptional quality. In the role of Malik, the excellent Sayyid El Alami (Messiah) offers a solar and discreet performance. At his side, Hiam Abbass (Succession) is terrific in the role of his mother. Her siblings, Fatna (Naidra Ayadi seen in Parallels), Sarah (Mouna Soualem), Mohamed (Tewfik Jallab, seen in gears) and Ben Amar (Malek Lamraoui) are all played by convincing actors, whom we would like to see more often on our screens. Kad Merad (dark baron) and Olivier Gourmet (An intimate conviction) complete this high-flying cast.

Kad Merad plays lawyer George Kiejman, who defended the Oussekine family during the trial // Source: Disney+
Kad Merad plays lawyer George Kiejman, who defended the Oussekine family during the trial // Source: Disney+

In short, we can only advise you to dive into Oussekinewhich strangely echoes the punch series When They See Us (In their gaze). Created by Ava Duvernay, this story of an American miscarriage of justice with latent racism, had already returned all its spectators when released on Netflix in 2019. Oussekine fits with dignity into this heritage and leaves us frozen to the depths of our being at the end of the fourth episode, shaken by this unfinished destiny.

The verdict

The solar Sayyid El Alami is excellent in the role of Malik Oussekine // Source: Disney+

On December 5, 1986, Malik Oussekine was assassinated by police after a jazz concert, on the sidelines of a student demonstration. The death of this student of Algerian origin will upset French society and lead to great political and legal consequences, while his family wishes to obtain justice. Oussekine is the first fiction to take hold of this chilling true story, the facts of which resonate strangely with the reality of 2022. Chance of the calendar, a film on the same subject, Our Brotherswith Reda Kateb (In therapy), will be screened at the next Cannes Film Festival.

But it’s this mini-series that opens the ball, and let’s be clear: it’s a masterpiece. It is often said that French series are bad, but Oussekine brilliantly proves the contrary. Thanks to a cast with remarkable performances and a captivating narration, these four episodes available on Disney+ are exemplary. Do not miss it.

Source: Numerama editing

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