- The documentary The Arab in the post will be broadcast on TMC on Tuesday, November 14 at 9:25 PM.
- “It’s a French story,” Azzeddine Ahmed-Chaouch, who co-authored the documentary with Youcef Khmane, explains to 20 Minutes. It is about ‘showing a part of the national story that is told for once by those involved, the North African people, of the first, second or third generation. »
- “My personal history, the fact that I am concerned about the subject, allows me to go further in asking questions. For example, the topic of hair relates to things I have experienced and can afford to present to my interviewees. This shows the public a reality they do not know,” the journalist underlines.
“For the first time, North Africans will speak for 90 minutes, and it is not football,” jokes Azzeddine Ahmed-Chaouch. The journalist, well known to the believers of “Quotidien”, thus introduces himself 20 minutes, The Arab in the postthe documentary that he made together with Youcef Khmane was broadcast on TMC on Tuesday from 9:25 p.m.
“It’s a French story,” he continues more seriously. It is about ‘showing a part of the national story that is told for once by those involved, the North African people, of the first, second or third generation. » With archive images and testimonials from personalities (the journalist Rachid Arhab, the actors Younès Boucif, Ramzy and Melha Bedia, the politician Rachida Dati, the director Mehdi Charef, the historian Naïma Yahi…) it follows decades of television representations but also the evolving mentality and the forms that stigmatization can take in France since the end of the Second World War. A part of the story that closely matches the experience of Azzeddine Ahmed-Chaouch. Maintenance.
What prompted you to work on this documentary?
This comes from a long reflection that stems from my personal journey. Since I started doing some airtime with “Quotidien,” I have noticed that many people of North African descent place some hope in me or consider me as a spokesperson. This further fueled my feeling that there is a problem with representation, with visibility, in the media. I have been thinking about this subject for two years. I suggested this documentary to Bangumi last year and it was told to me to go.
This documentary is part of a form of journalism that is rarely practiced in France, the so-called “situated” journalism, which means that the journalist is personally involved in a certain way with the subject being covered. Was that clear?
We quickly told ourselves that it would have been strange to start interviewing people without interviewing myself. There was a sense of exploration at the premiere. I am the trigger for the subject and wanted to reflect on my own story. We pushed the exercise as far as we could, to the point where we interviewed my mother.
And what does that do?
It’s disturbing at first. I didn’t give him the questions in advance. She knew that I was making a documentary about the image of North Africans in France, about their place in society, visibility… I was relaxed, but for her it was not easy, she was under pressure. This film is almost a psychoanalysis of the North Africans of France. There is one constant in North African families: we like to laugh, but we talk very little about ourselves, there is a taboo on what we think, we rarely go to psychologists… There was the idea of giving everyone a little bit at the table. Talking about childhood, the relationship with parents, the obstacles we encounter. This was new for some speakers.
What would you say to people who think this topic should have been discussed by someone who wasn’t involved?
I would say that in this case we should ask ourselves the question about all other topics. Being of North African descent, I couldn’t be objective and ask the right questions? This is an insulting argument. On the contrary, it allows me to ask more direct questions, without anyone accusing me of some form of racism. When I ask Count de Bouderbala if we can laugh at everything about the Arabs, I don’t think anyone else can ask him, because that might be frowned upon. When I use humor on this subject, it is self-deprecating. I’m a real journalist, so I do journalistic work. My personal story, the fact that I am concerned about the subject, allows me to go further in asking questions. For example, the topic of hair relates to things I have experienced and can afford to present to my interviewees. This shows the audience a reality they don’t know.
Have you discovered anything that has surprised you while digging into all those television archives?
I didn’t know Rachid who sang The little Arab. He was on all the TV sets and his song is amazing [« J’suis un p’tit beur mais sois tranquille, j’viendrais pas voler ton argent »]. He thinks he’s exposing prejudices, but without realizing it, poor man, he’s accentuating them or putting them back in the spotlight. It tells about an era, that of La Zoubida, by Pierre Péchin who makes the sketch “The cicada and the ant” with a strong accent. Be careful, as historian Naïma Yahi notes: It would be anachronistic to say these people are responsible. La ZoubidaFor example, I sang it in the schoolyard, even though the lyrics can be associated with stigmatization. But these archives allow us to understand the period we lived through.
Rachid Ahrab intervenes in the documentary. He was the first journalist of North African descent to present a television news program in France. Is he an important figure in your vocation as a journalist?
My father watched all the television news, 19/20THE 20 hours Then the Evening 3. He bought the newspaper in the morning and listened to the radio. I was inundated with information and I loved the news. But my father told me that I couldn’t become a journalist because there was no place, that I had no career. In 1998, I was 16 years old, France had just won the World Cup and I saw Rachid Ahrab come on air. It made me feel uninhibited, I told myself it was possible. He created a calling in me, he made me believe in it. A high school math teacher assured me I would never become a journalist. In the document I politely say that she explained to me that I didn’t have the codes, but in reality her comments were more racist and direct than that.
Do you feel that you are a role model for young people of North African descent who want to become journalists?
Nowadays there are journalists of North African descent on television, but they remain an exception: there are not many of them. When I’m on the street, I’m not the best known, but people of Algerian, Tunisian or Moroccan descent know what I’ve done. There is a kind of pride because we are not on set much today. We are happy when we inspire someone, when a child thinks it is possible. But I don’t want to be anyone’s spokesperson.
What was your path to the profession?
It was very classic. I followed what the student grant books said: three years of college plus journalism school. So I did two years of law, a year of political science and school in Marseille. After that I did an internship, had my first permanent contract at Le Parisien, after which I successively started working at M6, Bangumi and “Quotidien”.
Have you encountered any obstacles in the profession because of your background?
This has only happened to me once, in a large editorial office, with an editor-in-chief, who made me feel every day… (the sentence remains in suspense) Although it was my delusion to arrive every morning with a bottle of wine olive oil in hand (laughs). It was a difficult time, I had not prepared myself for it. Because the editors could not protect me, I decided to leave. That was also when I started telling myself that one day I would write or do something. It was structuring, triggering. I wouldn’t have had this career, these five years of higher education, my parents wouldn’t have taught me Republican values so I would let someone ruin my life.