Gad Elmaleh:His first film
First broadcast date
Interview with the comedian Gad Elmaleh while filming his first film "Hi cousin! " produced by the Algerian film-maker Merzak Allouache.
- Society and way of life / Migrations
- France - Centre and Ile-de-France - Paris
Gad Elmaleh: his first film
Co-produced by France, Algeria, Luxembourg and Belgium, the comedy Salut Cousin (Hey Cousin) by Algerian film-maker Merzak Allouache takes place in the working-class districts of northern Paris. Alilo, played by Gad Elmalein his first film role, arrives in France to see his cousin Mok, and helps him in a little drug dealing. Between chases and misunderstandings, the two young men from the same family but who have been brought up separated by a sea, get to know each other better. Salut Cousin examines the yawning cultural gap between a young Algerian and a young Frenchman with Algerian roots who knows nothing of his parents’ country. The events which punctuate the script draw them a bit closer.
Through these two characters, Merzak Allouache’s film – a film-maker who made his reputation with his first film Gatlato Omar (1976) – addresses not just the problems second generation immigrants have integrating into French society, but also the social pressure that exists in Algeria. In his portrait of these two cousins, the director interweaves the social problems which plague people on both sides of the Mediterranean. This wide gap between the manners, morals and way of life is illustrated by a sort of journey of initiation made by the innocent Alilo lost in the Parisian jungle. As for Mok, he seems to be the victim of every evil with which we habitually saddle second generation immigrants, such as petty crime and drugs.
Salut Cousin was released in cinemas in November 1996 having been presented at the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. The comedy, Gad Elmaleh points out in this interview, is not a "beur" movie. Over the past ten years, and since the early films of Mehdi Charef and Rachid Bouchareb, this expression has become a sort of mantra used by journalists to describe any French film made by directors from North Africa or born of North African immigrant parents. But in the mid-1990s, the "beur" film was already out of fashion. With La Haine, Raï, Ma 6t va crack-er or Le Ciel, les oiseux….et ta mère, French cinema turned its eyes towards the suburbs, looking at problems which are no longer centred round ethnic identity but social. Salut Cousin is an illustration of this shift, since the film focuses, as usual with Merzak Allouache, on social issues more than issues of origin and belonging.
Although Salut Cousin gave the public the chance to discover Gad Elmaleh on the big screen, they had to wait until 2003 before he made his first big success in the cinema. For with less than 50,000 entries, the film never reached the large audience for which it was intended, partly because of the lack of an adequate cinema network in Algeria. It was with Chouchou, in which he worked again with Merzak Allouache, that Gad Elmaleh became a name in the cinema and for the general public. An Algerian filmmaker to whom the Moroccan comedian who triumphed in France owes much.
- Denise Brahimi, Cinémas d'Afrique francophone et du Maghreb, Éditions Nathan, Paris, 1999
- Cahiers du cinéma, Hors-série, février 2003
 Gad Elmaleh is a well-known French-Moroccan stand-up comedian