“Tirailleurs”, Film by Mathieu Vadepied: In memory of my father

Skirmishers recounts the heroism of these African soldiers enlisted by force in the French army and left in the shadows during the First World War. A film intended for the greatest number, seen above all as a tribute, but which nevertheless remains a little too wise and academic.

© Marie-Clémence David 2022 – Unity – Korokoro – Gaumont – France 3 Cinema – Mille Soleils – Sypossible Africa

“We don’t have the same memory, but we have the same story”, explained Omar Sy before the screening of this film which is particularly close to his heart, and of which he is the producer at the same time as the main performer. Skirmishers thus takes the point of view of the African recruits during the First World War, these second-rate populations, but most often in the front lines, to whom it was time to pay the homage which is due to them.

skirmishers-posterThe first part thus takes root in Senegal, to present an identity and a culture that will be so ignored thereafter. Filmed in the Fulani language, the story thus reverses the traditional presentation and presents another war, that of the pure and simple abduction of men of fighting age to come and feed the cannon fodder of the metropolis. The point of view thus implanted makes it possible to present the arrival at the front according to exiles, for whom the absurdity is not limited to the very principle of war, but to a whole culture, a hierarchy and to the awareness of be considered expendable cattle.

On the other hand, it will therefore be essential, according to Mathieu Vadepiedto highlight the heroism of these protagonists left in the shadows. Omar Sy thus embodies the father of a recruit, who follows him to ensure his protection, while the congeners invest the combat zone to fetch the body of one of their own. If the story manages to deal with a crucial point, through the assimilation of the son who joins the hierarchy and comes to give orders to a father dispossessed of his function, the rest of the film never lets go of this academic angle of the heroism in times of war, and sacrifices to many clichés of the genre.

We understand the bias, insofar as the objective is to speak to as many people as possible: rewritten many times over nearly a decade, the screenplay ended up makingOmar Sy the father of the role initially planned for him, as it was crucial that such a popular actor remain on the bill to ensure the resonance necessary for such a project. It will be the same for the battle scenes, the tension around the strategic taking of a hill or the sacrificial pathos of the conclusion: by summoning the invariants of the genre, Vadepied makes the concessions it deems necessary to avoid the political tract and remain distributable within the National Education. We can’t really blame him for avoiding fits of rage to try to build a worthy tribute, which nevertheless remains a little too wise and academic.

Sergeant Pepper

A film by Mathieu Vadepied
With Omar Sy, Alassane Diong, Jonas Bloquet
Genre: Drama, Historical, War
Duration: 1h 40min
Theatrical release date: January 4, 2023

“Tirailleurs”, Film by Mathieu Vadepied: In memory of my father – Benzine Magazine