“Tazzeka” versus the French stereotype

The French Film Festival highlights the film with an enlightening panel

The Tournées French Film Festival continued with its third movie “Tazzeka” (2018) on Feb. 4 in the Gaines Theatre. The comedic film was directed by Jean-Philippe Gaud. The film follows a young Moroccan man, Elias (played by Mahdi Belemlih), who is inspired to leave his small village of Tazzeka to accomplish his dream to be a successful chef. Ever since he was young, Elias became inspired by his grandmother’s cooking. Struggling to create dishes that break the traditional mold, he encounters a famous chef by the name of Julien Blac (played by Olivier Sitruk). After tasting Elias’ creations, he notions for him to leave Tazzeka to become a chef.

Before and after the film, the festival included panelists that would dive into the complexities of the plot and its significance within the festival. Dr. Patricia Seuchie was the speaker for this event. She is a French professor that specializes in “francophone studies, meaning French literature and culture,” she said, outside of France which “includes North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and the French Carribean.” Dr. Seuchie’s “research focuses on immigration and displacement of francophone Africans to France and the issues of culture, identity and migration.” She then contextualizes the film by explaining how the former colonization of African nations by France still has a negative effect on their economies. The French still have a hold on their former colonies’ economies which has led to “a massive immigration of francophone Africans to France seeking economic opportunities,’’ according to Dr. Seuchie. This post-colonial issue of migration is the main theme of “Tazzeka.” 

After the viewing of the film, the floor was also open to the public and students who attended to make comments on how the film was able to capture “the other side of France” compared to the typical tourist filled Eiffel Tower.  There was also a lively discussion between the speaker and her colleagues, who are also members of the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures department. One of the professors, Dr. Rocío Gordon from the Spanish section of the department, criticized the film for “romanticizing that experience” of an immigrant migrating for economic opportunity. But, according to Dr. Gordon,  it’s just “a feel good movie” 

Dr. Seuchie’s response is that “people from former [French] colonies are not accepted” in France, and that “very few have the chance that the Elias has … because they aren’t given the chance.” The discussion moved to why Elias or other immigrants would leave their home for a new place like France. Dr. Seuchie states that they have the feeling that “they don’t want to return home empty-handed; you want to return with the treasure,” usually in the form of financial stability from the economic opportunities in France. The speaker also explained in the discussion how the relationship between France and their former colonies is complicated. She states “France has done a good job selling its culture to their colonies.” Now in more recent times, younger Africans have grown to resent this relationship but still see the economic prosperity of France as hard to resist. Speaking on why France’s relationship with its colonies is shown in such a negative light, Dr. Suechie says “all their resources were taken to France, and they were left with almost nothing; they [Africans from former French colonies] felt that they were taken advantage of.” 

At the end of the discussion, Dr. Seuchie explains how she “likes how the film maker tries to promote this idea of diversity that is not accepted in France.” The real France is not just made up of Caucasians or French origin, but it is made up of a lot of people like Elias who are from former French colonies like Morocco.

~Hannah Lindenblad, Photography Editor~

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