T. alt.: Le Chien. Scen., F., M.: Marc Scialom. Mus.: Mohamed Matar, Mohamed Saada. Int.: Tahar Aïbi (Tahar), Marie-Christine Lefort (la ragazza incontrata da Tahar). Myriam Tuil (l’hôtèlier), Marie-Christine Rabedon (una ragazza), Jean-Louis Scialom (il bambino sulla terrazza), Hamid Djellouli (la voce del fratello di Tahar), Jean-Louis Dupont (l’assassino). Prod.: Film Flamme, Société de production Le Sacre, Société de production Polygone Étoilé. 35mm. D.: 70′. Bn e Col.
To all of the people who work persistently in the background, the leftfield amateur filmmakers, who I know are bursting with so much frustrated passion and a a mass of intuition that they make cinema and official television seem bland, to all the people who are arrogantly ignored by the “profession”, I dedicate Lettre à la prison and the adventure contained within it.
Marc Scialom, Jewish Italian of Tuscan origin and naturalized French citizen, was born in Tunis in 1934. He moved to France after the Nazi persecution of 1943 in Tunisia, after which there were repercussions for Italians who were automatically associated with Fascism during the period of ‘cleansing’, and after the Bizerte massacre (1961) – resulting from the war between France and Algeria reported in the short film La Parole perdue (1969). His life is intertwined with the history of cinema even if he has always been at its edges. Lettre à la prison was made with friends and family, without a producer and almost ‘illegally’. In Paris it was not supported by his fellow filmmakers, including Chris Marker. It is a film about the loss of cultural and personal identity of an Arab exiled in France, which addresses the painful subjects of colonialism, post-colonialism and racism. It was filmed in Tunis, Marseille and Paris, following the director’s exile. Disillusioned, Scialom left the film in a drawer. He went back to where he came from and studied Italian language and literature. He translated the Divine Comedy (Le Livre de Poche, 1996). He had already worked on Dante, considered an “exile par excellence”, making the short film Exils (1966), a work that he would later reject, even after winning the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1972.
After the discovery of Lettre à la prison to his daughter Chloé, also a filmmaker, and the restoration and presentation in 2008 at the Marseille Festival Internazional du Documentaire, where it gained the Mention Spéciale du Groupement national des Cinémas de Recherche, Marc Scialom’s return to work was on Nuit sur la mer (2012), a reflection on death and the utopia of a world without borders.
Mila Lazic, Silvia Tarquini (edited by), Marc Scialom. Impasse du cinéma. Esilio, memoria, utopia / Exil, mémoire, utopie, Artdigiland, Dublin 2012
Restored in 2008 at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory