After it’s screening in Paris, one of our fantastic volunteers interviewed the male protagonist, actor Helmi Dridi, of Stefanno Amatucci’s feature film CAINA. (The two are pictured together in the image above).
Interviewed by Auriane Mallein
It’s 8.45 pm when I sit down with Helmi Dridi, just outside of Le Lucernaire, where I just watched him and Luisa Amatucci’s performances in CAINA.
Helmi Dridi is a Tunisian actor, he’s been living in Paris for now eight years. Back in Tunisia he was at l’Institut supérieur d’art dramatique de Tunis. Needless to say he’s a charming person, very driven by his work; and he had his daughter on his lap for the whole interview.
Good evening Mr. Dridi, thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions about CAINA. This is the kind of movie you leave and feel literally mind blown. Could you tell me more about your character?
(He laughs) That’s good to hear. Well in Stefano’s (Amutucci) movie I play Naïri, a Tunisian immigrant who arrives on these shores, these Europeans shores, since it’s never clearly stated we’re in Italy, even though we talk in Italian. I mean this “situation” is the same all around Europe and not only in Italy.
Naïri, since it’s kind of a fantasy movie, works in corpse trafficking; he retrieves cadavers from the Mediterranean sea, and sells them clandestinely. And one day, through an odd set of circumstances, he finds himself forced to work with the protagonist character, Caïna, who’s working the same job.
Can you tell us a bit more about her character?
She’s an intricate character, very racist, xenophobic, who hates foreigners, whoever they are. During the film, she’s forced to work with my character and the viewers witness at one point some kind of love between these character, you might even find yourself hoping that this budding love would save her, or what is left of humanity inside her and well … They need to see the film! (he laughs.)
Definitely! In CAINA, you play a Tunisian character. Being yourself Tunisian, did it help you identify or get closer to Naïri’s point of view ?
No not really, I mean I didn’t have any kind of incidence on how played, good or bad. Naïri is, let’s say out of this world, he’s good to his core, sincere.
Yes, he’s the breath of fresh air, without him the movie would be some much harder to watch and understand.
Exactly, even though he goes over, well I wouldn’t say the dark side, but he shifts through the movie. And that’s the approach taken by the director, he wants show that we may be the result of our environment. After being hammered with racist ideologies, at one point it’s too much. Whereas when you’re loved, you’ll do your best, and it’s only on the migrants, it’s for mankind. Just like a child actually.
And how difficult was it to get into character? How did you deal with the fact that you had to “carry” corpses around?
Well, it was not easy, of course. But what I like about Stefanno is his will to work, he’s a good worker and we had the chance to rehearse a lot of scenes, since we we’re on the shooting grounds almost two weeks before we actually started shooting. And we talked a lot about the whys and hows of the character; this film is not easy, the talking is not easy because you have to be careful not shoot a movie which praises racism of course.
Personally it led me to asking questions about immigration, it’s very well done needless to say. And especially the part which raises the issue of religion and Islamism, I mean one of the most breathtaking scenes of the film is where Naïri is praying under the storm on the shores, facing the sea.
Well thank you very much it’s very appreciated. But yes, I really like the scene too, it’s one of the strongest. Though it was one of the trickiest scenes we got to shoot because of the weather, special effects, it was dark, etc… But because of these tough conditions, we were almost in some kind of trance, really, fully involved. And Luisa (Amatucci, she’s playing Caina) really helped me play and compose this scene, by being very intense, almost mean, well very professional.
And this moment when Naïri resorts to praying, it’s very strong because it’s actually not about Islam here but about religion, about mankind acknowledging a bigger force and needing this force, God. It’s also about radicalism nowadays, some people when they feel lonely or abandoned they’ll reach out to religion in a “soft” way while others we’ll jump into radicalism because there are no other solutions.
And this character is not radical, or even very religious but when in doubt or scared, he only reaches out to God.
Another great scene of the film is the one where you stumble upon your brother, who’s dead, in the dreaded place where Caina keeps the corpses. How did you embody Naïri’s pain? It’s very intense to watch!
As a matter of fact, that day we shot fifteen sequences, it’s huge, it really is. It was stressful and it might have powered the way I played but it was also because I’ve seen these young guys wanting to leave Tunisia and who died on the journey, I thought of them too. The Mediterranean is a cemetery for the dreams of those who fled their country, dreaming of the occidental paradise which actually doesn’t exist. Hundreds of people die every day in the sea and that’s actually what drove me to get into character.
On a more joyful note, what do you think you think will be your next project?
Well I already shot something else and I can’t wait for you all to see it, but let’s say that I like to be driven by something while on set so who knows what the future holds.
After winning best feature narrative at Paris Lift-Off, CAINA will be screening with us again in Sydney, Monday 20th November 7pm.
Tickets available here: https://sydneyliftoff17.eventbrite.co.uk