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Rouge – a highly effective ecological thriller

Stills from Rouge (Photo: IMDb)
AMMAN — “Rouge” (or Red Soil), an ecological thriller that denounces both the actions of large industrialists and the general consent of a society that prefers to look elsewhere, will be screened today at the opening of the 10th edition of Women’s Film Week, organized by UN Women, the Royal Film Commission of Jordan and partners.اضافة اعلان

Inspired by a true story

To build the script for his second directorial effort, filmmaker Farid Bentoumi and his collaborators were largely inspired by the case of the Gardanne factory, which has been dumping toxic waste into the Mediterranean Sea for decades.

The producer chose to transpose this story to the mountains of Savoy in order to allow an even more striking visualization of the effects of red mud. This also gives rise to the most spectacular scene of the film, when the characters reach the edge of the polluted area, here called "the lake".

If the feature film is part of a certain American tradition of ecological thrillers like Erin Brockovich (Soderbergh, 2000) or more recently Dark Waters (Haynes, 2019), Rouge embraces many additional themes in order to draw up a broad observation on French society and its developments.

The title evokes the toxic discharges from the factory and the blood ties that unite the members of a family, as well as the color attached to a certain political and union commitment. It is these three dimensions – ecological, psychological and political – that Bentoumi intends to evoke in his second feature film.

It is often said after a first remarkable effort that the hardest part is "the film after". In the case of filmmaker Bentoumi, it is the opposite.

His first production was six years ago with the identity comedy “Good Luck Algeria”, where Sami Bouajila portrayed an improbable Olympic skier competing for Algeria. Sympathetic and touching, the film, based on a true story, had a somewhat anecdotal character despite some intelligent notes giving hope for talent to follow.

It is often said after a first remarkable effort, that the hardest part is “the film after”

In reverse, it is today that Bentoumi really reveals himself with “Rouge”, a politico-social dramatic thriller for which he recast Bouajila alongside the formidable Zita Hanrot.

“Rouge” follows the story of Nour, an occupational nurse hired in the Isère chemical factory where her father has always worked. Very quickly, she discovers that not everything is very “clean” in the management of polluting waste, in multiple senses of the word. However, talking means betraying her father Slimane’s trust.

Slimane is widely respected by the local community, and if his own daughter causes a scandal, he will be accused of bringing the wolf into the fold. But to be silent is to become an accomplice in a revolting situation involving the political authorities.

“Rouge” scrutinizes every detail of life at a chemical company - the hard work, the precarious employment of workers, the financial pressure on an entire region, incomes that feed entire families, the lack of health monitoring, the unreliability of environmental audits and even underground agreements between powers are unveiled.

Bentoumi never darkens the picture to the point of being Manichean, but tries to make the design clear enough to alert consciences and give a global point of view on a worrying situation, which in France is compartmentalized by a good number of legal and financial obstacles.

Despite the realism of every minute and the desire to stick to the skin of a veracity that presents itself to our eyes, “Rouge” is above all a film that knows how to link political and fictional issues.

Despite the realism of every minute and the desire to stick to the skin of a veracity that presents itself to our eyes, “Rouge” is above all a film that knows how to link “political” and fictional issues.

With writing that marries the genres to perfection, “Rouge” goes from a scene of tense and mute hierarchical remonstrance to a sublime scene of a “declaration of war” between a father and a daughter who no longer understand each other.

Towards ecological awareness

The viewer discovers at the same time as the heroine the seedy underside of the chemical factory where her father has been a pillar of the worker’s union for 20 years. Guided by the protagonist’s successive discoveries, the viewer can fully identify with her questions, torn between her duty as a nurse and citizen and her loyalty to a father she has always cherished and admired. The progression of the character toward an asserted awareness is helped by an ecological journalist portrayed by a very solid Céline Salette.

An effective anti-capitalist thriller

Far from all of this, the managers of the factory lead the dance by exploiting the credulity of their employees, disguising the health problems of the personnel and solving problems with corruption. This uncompromising vision of a certain entrepreneurial capitalism has the merit of denouncing a state of affairs that is still too often suppressed.

Effective and very relevant, “Rouge” is a very good thriller that puts its finger on many current ecological issues with a real sense of analysis beyond its partisan positions.

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