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Mohamed Hamidi at the London's Favourite French Film

“One Man and His Cow” : Mohamed Hamidi, Jacqueline and Fatah - A France like no other

By Manon Variol

Mohamed Hamidi’s latest film is an unusual love story: a romance between Fatah and Jacqueline… his cow! The Algerian farmer dotes over her more than his wife. One Man and His Cow was screened at London’s Favourite French Film on 22 September for its UK première. This feel-good movie shows a warm and supportive France and is Hamidi’s second feature film, after Né Quelque Part.

Lambert Wilson with Jamel Debbouze, Jacqueline and Fatsah Bouyahmed. Photo : Jean-Claude Lother
Lambert Wilson with Jamel Debbouze,
Jacqueline and Fatsah Bouyahmed

Fatah is a dreamer. In his Algerian village, in which almost every man is named Mohamed, there is only one computer. When Fatah sings Vanessa Paradis's “Joe le taxi” while watering his vegetable patch, he hopes that one day, his cow will be allowed to attend the Agricultural Show in Paris. He sends a letter every year to get his pass. He eventually receives it as well as the support of the whole village. All his friends give him money so he can go to Paris, even if it means travelling on foot!

Hamidi has created a naive character with Fatah, whose happiness never waivers despite his problems. His candour is so sincere that it becomes touching. “Where is your wife ? Is she dead ?” Nobody would like to be questioned like this. But Fatah will, without doubt, make you smile. The main actor Fatsah Bouyahmed is not a well-known actor but he is more than a match for Jamel Debbouze, playing his brother-in-law who denies his origins, and Lambert Wilson, a count who can no longer afford to live in his beautiful château. They both forget their problems when the farmer enters their lives, just like an antidote.

For the UK première of One Man and His Cow during London’s Favourite French Film (LFFF), Mohamed Hamidi answered our questions : 

FranceInLondon : You taught economics for many years. What made you give that up to become a film director?

Mohamed Hamidi
Mohamed Hamidi

Mohamed Hamidi : I have always wanted to tell stories. I grew up with art, wrote a number of film scores. I discovered economics during my studies but I never stopped dreaming about becoming a storyteller.

I see myself as an author more than a director. I wrote my first feature Né Quelque Part within two weeks and I thought I would publish it as a novel. But someone told me I should make a film out of it. That is how I discovered cinema. I also used to direct live shows with Jamel Debbouze. I basically changed direction completely, and I am really happy about it!

And this has been a success as your first two films were both award winners. Right?

Beginner’s luck ! (laughs) Né Quelque Part was a personal film and it was presented at the Cannes festival. It was rewarding to know that my stories are appreciated by the audience.

One Man and His Cow also received prizes (Grand Prix of the Alpes d’Huez Comedy festival, as well as Public Choice Award and Best Actor award for Fatsah Bouyahmed) but the real reward is the way in which the audiences have responded, which is really heartwarming.

How did you come up with the idea of One Man and His Cow ?

I wanted to make a road movie in France. I travelled a lot throughout the country when I was working with Jamel and other humorists. I thought it was interesting to show France from the perspective of an outsider.

One day, Fatsah Bouyahmed told me about one of his uncles, a funny farmer who was always asking for information about the Agricultural Show. So I thought : “What if this guy left his village with a cow and walked accross France?”

Looking at the country at walking speed gives a different perspective.

Fatsah Bouyahmed, Jacqueline and Mohamed Hamidi. Photo : Jean-Claude Lother
Fatsah Bouyahmed, Jacqueline and Mohamed Hamidi

What is the message behind Fatah’s naive view of life ?

This character reminds me of my father : a farmer who left his village to go to France during the 60s and wanted to discover the country despite the cultural gap. The message transmitted today is that everyone is different. We generalise and talk about migrants, Algerians, Muslims… But these are individuals with a character and their own story. Highlighting Fatah is a way to show that behind these categories, there are people with their families, dreams and utopias.

People tend to think that reality is what you see on TV. But this is not what we live everyday. I am not a fool: in France, there is racism, also the National Front and all kinds of tensions… With this film, I try to balance things out with a simple story which could almost be a fairy tale.

You use a humour full of gentleness in this film. Do you think British audiences will appreciate it?

I think they will. I have always thought that Algerian and British humour are very similar. They both have a dry sense of humour and a love of the absurd. I love Monthy Python and Ricky Gervais and the way they use self-mockery. Laughing at oneself is the best way to make the audience laugh.

One Man and His Cow was screened during LFFF for its UK premiere and I think that the message has got through. I am really happy about it.

We wanted to invite Jacqueline to London’s Favourite French Film but she did not reply to us ! Where is she ?

I have not seen her for a while ! I must go and see her. She is in Fontainebleau with her trainer. She promoted the film with us and toured France.

You should know that there is not only one cow, but three: the French Jacqueline, the main actress, a double just in case, and a Moroccan Jacqueline, who has just had a calf.

What are your projects for the future ?

I am currently writing a screenplay, which I hope will be filmed in 2018. I am also still working with Jamel Debbouze on the next edition of the Marrakech du Rire. I love this show and we have great fun together.


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