Omar Sy in “Tirailleurs” recalls that we “do not have the same memory, but we have the same story”

Omar Sy in

CANNES FESTIVAL – 200,000 so-called “Senegalese” skirmishers (in fact from all over Africa) fought alongside the Poilous during the Great War. 30,000 died on the French battlefields. In Skirmishers, director Mathieu Vadepied recounts the tragic fate of two of them: a father, Bakary Diallo played by Omar Sy, and his son Thierno, played by the young Alassane Diong. The film, which does not yet have a theatrical release date, was presented to the public for the first time this Wednesday, May 18 at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film Native by Rachid Bouchareb, presented in official competition at Cannes in 2006, on Algerian skirmishers during the Second World War marked everyone’s mind. It took another 15 years for the story of so-called Senegalese skirmishers during the First World War to be told, from their point of view, in the cinema.

In 1917, Bakary Diallo enlisted in the French army to join Thierno, his 17-year-old son, who had been forcibly recruited. Sent to the front, father and son will have to face the war together in the trenches of a country where they have never set foot. Galvanized by the ardor of his officer who wants to lead him to the heart of a battle on a hill in Verdun, Thierno frees himself and learns to become a man, while Bakary will do everything to extract him from the fighting and bring him back healthy. and except in the Fulani village from which they were torn.

Mathieu Vadepied and Omar Sy met more than ten years ago on the set ofUntouchables. One was a cinematographer, the other played the mythical Driss. “At first it was just an idea, then it became ten lines, a synopsis” and finally a film, says in an interview with Telerama the actor who is also the producer of the feature film.

Last year, on the stage of the Festival d’Avignon this time, the 44-year-old actor already lent his voice to Alfa Ndiaye, an African peasant engaged as a Senegalese rifleman during the First World War for a reading of a text from the novel soul brother by David Diop. In 2016, Omar Sy had signed the petition of the socialist Aïssata Seck, which demanded the naturalization of the Senegalese skirmishers. A fight which had finally led to the very end of the mandate of François Hollande.

A few minutes from finally presenting at the Cannes Film Festival this film in which he plays for the first time in Peul, his mother tongue, Omar Sy confided his immense emotion. “To all of you, know that you are going to be in one of my strongest memories. I will keep this moment very long in my memory, he launched. This film means a lot of things to me, but above all it illustrates one thing that we must remember: we don’t have the same memory, but we have the same story.

Something to pay tribute to the last rifleman of the First World War who died in 1998 in a small village in Senegal, whose story inspired the starting point of the film by Mathieu Vadepied. But also to the 200,000 others mounted at the front and for whom “rare are the books, and even less the films, which retrace their history”. And even still to “all the soldiers who fought at that time for France” because as Omar Sy summarizes, “it is all our memories added together” that make “the great History”.

See also on The HuffPost: On the Cannes red carpet, Omar Sy was overexcited