Fifty-seven-year-old French actor and director Roschdy Zem is in Venice with two films, his sixth feature film Our Ties, and as an actor in Rebecca Zlotowski’s Other People’s Children, both in the main Competition.
In his 35-years career, Zem worked in 80 films of different genres: auteur films, comedies, and more. The filmmaker is a kind, generous person – much unlike the character he interprets in his latest film. And yet…
Is the plot of Our Ties based on real-life events? Would Ryad be you?
Absolutely, he is me. I wanted to write this story after what happened to my brother, who suffers from personality alteration caused by brain injury. I wanted to write this story after what happened to my brother. It was also a good chance to write about my family and the ties between siblings, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren. I wrote Ryad based on things people said about me and he is a bit of a caricature, and a bit of a loveable character, too. I didn’t want to show my best in this character, but those traits of my personality that deserve reproach. It is a way to apologize to my family for not being too present in their lives. Not that my absence is what drew the most blame from them. What I mean is, my job as an actor gave me a place within my family, a place of privilege, especially when my parents were still around. I was the one not to disturb, the one not to be given bad news, the one to be sheltered, in a way. I think my siblings didn’t enjoy this, and they have good reasons not to. This is what I want to apologize for. There have been moments when, while not present physically, I was supposed to provide at least some psychological comfort, and I didn’t… My brother’s accident is the event that caused this reflection and the reason behind this movie.
How did your family react to the movie?
I was hesitant to show it to them, because my family is not involved at all in cinema, they never even asked to be hired as extras or anything like that. I am proud of the way they received the film, as a kind of homage. And it is.
Inspired by his own life, Roschdy Zem directs and stars in a drama on family relationships, a mix of irony and comedy. Moussa is a kind young man who has always been present for his extended family, unlike his brother Ryadh (Roschdy Zem), a famous TV personality whom everybody...
Inspired by his own life, Roschdy Zem directs and stars in a drama on family relationships, a mix of irony and comedy. Moussa is a kind young man who has always been present for his extended family, unlike his brother Ryadh (Ro...
Family is a recurrent theme in French cinema, as of late. Rebecca Zlotowski’s Other People’s Children is about family, too.
I believe this is a coincidence, even though the pandemic and the lockdowns pushed us to concentrate on more intimate themes such as family, homelife, daily occurrences. In Other People’s Children, we see people who want to build a family, in Our Ties the family is already there and it needs to find the best way to love each other and accept everyone’s flaws and problems.
Actor, director, producer, screenwriter. You seem to be doing it all.
I mean, I hadn’t been doing anything for a year because of COVID! Seriously, though, I love my job, and I love taking on new projects. Also, I now have an age that warrants more serious roles: deeper, stronger, fleshed out. Other People’s Children allowed me to explore a character that is more sensitive and vulnerable compared to those I have been interpreting so far. There’s so much we can do with and for women’s cinema and I crave new experiences, new jobs, new things to do.
What do you expect from the Venice Film Festival?
I don’t usually participate in festivals, and what I wanted, I already got: my film will be screened in the Sala Grande! I was so excited when I was watching Rebecca’s film and I thought it would have been my turn in a few days! And it’s such an honour for my work to be evaluated by such a competent jury.