An interview with Mathieu Kassovitz for the Home Entertainment release of Rebellion | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

An interview with Mathieu Kassovitz for the Home Entertainment release of Rebellion

26 August 2013

The astounding true story of a bloody hostage crisis, Rebellion, comes crashing to Blu-ray and DVD on 26th August, 2013, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Featuring both thrilling action and intense drama, Rebellion tells the real-life story of a French tribe in New Caledonia who attacked a police precinct taking 30 innocents hostage, as Special Ops officer Captain Philippe Legorjus (Matthieu Kassovitz, Haywire) is tasked with freeing them. A connection is formed between the Captain and lead terrorist Alphonse Dianou (newcomer Iabe Lapacas), but as negotiations become increasingly hostile, it becomes clear that the rebels have nothing to lose and everything to fight for. Against the highly pressured backdrop of presidential elections, the stakes are high and all bets are off...

Directed by lead-actor Mathieu Kassovitz, the film took ten years to translate from initial script to screen, to ensure the families of all the characters honoured the decision to bring this enthralling story to wider recognition. The film is a fierce return to form by Kassovitz who hit the big-time with his acclaimed 1995 directorial debut La Haine. It is made all the more remarkable for much of the cast being residents of Ouvéa, and in some cases, family members of the characters.

Boldly captivating, this gritty, powerful action film will introduce you to a tragic story told from the front-line in a way that will raise debate long after it is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 26th August, 2013 courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.


How did you come to take an interest in the events in Ouvéa and the character of Philippe Legorjus?

Thirteen years ago, my father gave me the League of Human Rights' Report on Ouvéa to read. It gave a minute-by-minute account of what happened. Of course, I had some recollection of events—I was eighteen at the time. I remembered the version given on TV: native Kanaks had massacred some policemen with machetes and taken others hostage. There had been decapitations and rape... I remembered what Chirac, who was Prime Minister at the time, had said: that these were human beings who deserved to be treated as such. In the book, I discovered a completely different story. The report claimed there had been atrocities and summary executions that had left 19 Kanaks dead. Telling the story of those ten days in April-May 1988, the report was a full-on screenplay. Throughout its incredible story, one character recurred constantly at every level: Captain Legorjus, a GIGN officer sent to negotiate with the hostage-takers, who found his hands tied by politicians and the military. The kidnappings took place during the presidential election campaign, which pitted François Mitterrand against his Prime Minister Jacques Chirac. Some time later, when I was shooting Crimson Rivers, I went swimming with one of the actors, Olivier Rousset, who told me that for six months in 1989 he'd lived in New Caledonia, on Ouvéa Island with people who'd directly experienced the events of 1988. He'd been accepted by the locals and had fallen in love with the country and its inhabitants. Since then, he'd been back several times. I asked him to organize a trip there so I could meet the Kanaks.


Did you go with the film in mind?

Yes. I knew there was the material for a wonderful movie and the script was virtually written. The dramatic structure was in the report of those ten days. On that first trip, we didn't talk about the movie. We just took a look round, to see who I was dealing with. I was wondering if I could a get a project like that off the ground and if it was possible to make it over there. Ten years had passed but people were still withdrawn into their grief. The subject was taboo. There had been no closure. There was a lot of religious and political in-fighting within the Kanak community. The nineteen dead men came from tribes and families that are all linked together in one way or another. Olivier introduced me to Mathias Waneux (a Kanak tribal chief, and business and political leader) who also has a part in the movie. We lived at his place when we were over there. He talked us through the "custom" and pleaded our case with the various factions. Mathias warned us that it may be too soon and that we'd most likely have to wait another ten years before being able to make the film. I spent ten days exploring the country and meeting the people. When I got home, I started work on the script. In the next five years, I went back on several occasions partly for research purposes and partly to sound people out about making a movie. Every time we had to go through the ritual at the heart of Kanak culture, the "custom."


How would you define the "custom"?

The custom is a discussion that ends in tacit agreement, which must not be broken because it is made eye-to-eye. Kanak society is based on a person's word, which has great value and is an absolute commitment, while lending a sacred dimension to all things. In New Caledonia, everything hinges on the custom. The discussions are very interesting—I've never encountered anything like it anywhere else—and they can go on for hours or even days. There's a time to speak, a time to listen and a time for the decision. We went through the whole process with Olivier. They said, "You can make this film if everybody agrees." We asked what they meant by "everybody." "All the victims' families," they replied. "And anybody who is in the custom and is entitled to his or her say." As a result, we often found ourselves explaining what we wanted to do and why to forty or more people. What complicated matters for me from the outset was that I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of Philippe Legorjus, whom many Kanaks believe betrayed them precisely because he didn't—or couldn't—keep his word.


Why were you so determined to tell it from Legorjus's viewpoint?

Because he's the thread running through the whole story. Because it was an arduous, surprising and very powerful life-experience for him. At the time, I hadn't met him, but I'd read his book, La morale et l'action ("Morality and Action"), which gives a clear picture of all he went through—how a relationship of trust was forged between him and the rebels' leader, Alphonse Dianou, and how he had to betray it in spite of himself. It's Shakespeare! Moreover, his point of view was easier for me to explain, if not defend. I'm not Kanak, I'm not here to defend the Kanaks' cause, but to express a point of view that mainstream audiences can understand—the story of a white man who could be the guy-next-door and who encounters other people from another culture and experiences something very powerful. It's only through Legorjus's eyes that we could set out the political and human dilemma. I explained that to the Kanaks during the custom and they replied, "Sure, but he's a traitor." I told them the point of the movie wasn't to portray him as a hero—or a traitor, actually—but to tell the story of what he went through. During the customs, we found ourselves in some pretty tense situations, but everything always turned out okay because we were talking. We were often confronted with people who were very wary of white men and mainland French people—young 25-year-olds who were 5 when their father or uncle was killed. They live with that memory, the image of their father or uncle sprawled on the ground with a bullet in his body. It's made even worse by the fact that nobody talks about it. There's a huge question mark over what truly happened, which simply spurs all kinds of fantastical theories. Some people rebuked us for opening up old wounds. We tried to explain that, on the contrary, it could be a way of helping those wounds to heal.





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