“El Gusto” tells the story of an Algerian orchestra of Jewish and Muslim musicians that studied together and became famous in the 50s as the ‘Rat Pack’ of Algiers. At the height of their fame, the Algerian war of independence began and Jews and Muslims were no longer allowed to work together. The music stopped and friendships were forced apart. Director Safinez Bousbia was visiting Algiers when he met a craftsman who once played with the orchestra, and he then decided to track down every surviving member of the group to take the stage once again.
The director says: “El Gusto is a story that remains untold to the present day: The story of independent thinkers witnessing the Franco Algerian history, told not by soldiers or victims but by simple musicians. These men managed to prove the universality of music can transcend all differences and prejudice. In a modern day world where conflicts tear communities apart, highlighting their differences rather than their similarities, this exceptional reunion of Jewish and Muslim musicians is the occasion to remind the younger generation that cultural and religious coexistence was possible not long ago. Taking the stage again their belief in this cultural harmony with common origins is affirmed.”
The biggest challenge: “I first spent the next 2 years tracking down each of the surviving members of the original Chaabi music class, now aged between 72 and 98 years of age and living across Algiers, Marseille and Paris. As there was no trace of these men, I first tracked down their old address in the casbah that I found in the inscription records of the conservatoire. Once I found their homes, I was told they were moved to the outskirts of Algiers. I had to knock on many doors in many outskirts to find them all in a city with very approximate addresses. I found these men living in poverty, with their lives on hold, lost in memories of the past. Some have been tortured by war, some by history, others by solitude but they all had an extraordinary story to tell that deserved to be told. I fell in love with these men and wanted to share their story through a film as I felt that they deserved more than just memories: these influential musicians deserved to have their music and passion brought back to life.”
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away from the film with? “When some talks about Algeria, it makes people think of war and terrorism. “El Gusto” is the story of an Algeria that sings, dances and has beautiful stories to share. I would like people to know the story of these men and of this Algeria. I also believe that the courage of these men to refuse to be slaves to their destiny and rather be masters of their own will. We all had childhood dreams but the constraints of life make us soon forget them. These men prove that it is never too late to make these dreams come true.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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