GB: What made you participate in a project like London River?
ZG: I had worked on another project with Olivier Lorelle, who usually writes Rachid Bouchareb’s films. Olivier was on the verge of directing his own first TV movie, and did not have much time to get involved in writing a new script for Rachid. I had also worked on the adaptation of the script of Indigènes – the previous film by Rachid and Olivier – in order to get it published as a novel. In addition, I have highly appreciated the work of Rachid since I saw Little Sénégal . I like his commitment as a man and as an artist ; his way of dealing with political matters without losing interest in his characters.
GB: The film has a very emotional and powerful story. What was your initial feeling when you began working on the film London River?
ZG: I had read the few pages that Rachid wrote as a draft of London River. The outline and the characters were roughly defined, and there was something very moving even in the simplicity of this draft. My feeling was that the story was strong in itself, and that its simplicity should be kept unspoiled through whatever developments were needed.
GB: The difference between race, community and religion are very widely discussed. How did you feel describing such a sensitive matter?
ZG: Whatever the sensitivity of such issues, I had the feeling that we had several guard-rails on our side . The first was Rachid’s real legitimacy in making such a movie. During his life in France as a person of Algerian origin, he has had to deal with racism, and he knows that hate and misunderstanding have to be avoided. In this regard, he was eager to express himself with openess, in a way that was very close to the humanism of Ousmane, the character played by Sotigui Kouyaté.
GB: What do you personally remember from the time of the bombings 7 July 2005 in London? And how did your emotion influence you in the process of writing for London River?
ZG: I remember the announcement of these events in the media very well. You could feel panic and bewilderment that reached all the way to Paris. It was a kind of echo of the 9/11 events, but this time a major European city had been hit. There was a feeling of fragility and helplessness mixed with rage in the face of this terrorist violence. But there was also the effort to above all avoid identifying muslims and terrorists.
When we started to work on the script, one year after the bombings, the memory was still fresh. We kept in mind the pictures of lost loved ones that covered the city, and what it said about the commitment of living together, rather than in an atmosphere of hate and destruction.
GB: The film depicts the real relationship between two people and how it evolves. How did you feel being part of this journey of discovery, appreciation and respect?
ZG: Immersing ourselves in the characters’ reactions to the events, and in the way they discover each other, was a way to share their experiences, and sometimes lead us to face our own prejudices.
We thought that if terrorist violence is something that one might have to suffer, everyone is responsible for his or her own response to it : you can either react with hate and rejection, or reaffirm that cultural exchanges and knowledge of other nationalities are goals to achieve. Moreover, these goals might be the best shields against random destruction and terrorist violence. The two main characters choose to get closer to each other, whatever their differences, whatever their wounds: they stick together. It seemed to us, as scriptwriters, the best way for them to resist and fight chaos.
GB: The plot is beautifully scripted. What can we expect from you in near future?
Thanks! I am currently writing a script for the screen with a director from Guadeloupe, in the French Caribbean. His project is centered on a young black immigrant from this island who arrives in the metropolitan France of the 70’s . Facing racism and exclusion due to his origin and skin color, he falls into organized crime, hiding behind identity protest politics.