Oussekine tells the story of Oussekine’s death from the perspective of the downtrodden – not only Oussekine himself but also his family who were fighting for justice. It was created, written and directed by Antoine Chevrollier (formerly one of the directors of the spy thriller series The Bureau with Kassovitz) and co-written by French literary sensation Faïza Guène, as well as Julien Lilti and Cédric Ido, with the space representative of multicultural France, that is shown on the screen. On-camera talent includes Hiam Abbas, the revered Palestinian actress perhaps best known as Marcia Roy successorwhich plays Oussekine’s mother, in another incredible performance alongside rising stars Sayyid El Alami, Malek Lamraoui, Tewfik Jallab, Naidra Ayadi and Mouna Soualem.
Series creator Chevrollier was around 10 years old when he first encountered the tragic story of Oussekine. Too young to see La Haine, he heard the name on a rap album inspired by the film. “It was a song by the band Assassin called L’état Assassin, and the chorus was ‘L’état Assassin, une example Malik Oussekine’ [The state of the assassin/one example Malik Oussekine]and his name is burned into my memory.”
In March, the first episode of Oussekine was screened as the final presentation of the French television festival Series Mania in Lille, where audiences were enchanted. The opener traces how the news of Malik’s death reached the rest of the family. Rather than showing the moment of death, it focuses on the agony Malik’s sister Sarah goes through as she ponders how and when to tell her mother that her son is dead.
In order to provide multiple perspectives on the life and death of Malik, the four episodes are divided into themes. The second focuses on the police cover-up, as they first lie about when and how Malik died, and then attempt to manipulate the testimonies and reports to paint themselves in the best possible light. The third covers the history of Oussekine’s family, looking back at their life in Algeria from 1977 and tracing how Malik’s parents made the decision to move to France. The final episode revolves around the court case and poses philosophical questions about the treatment of immigrants and what it means to be a multicultural society.
A national wake-up call
“Following the election of President Mitterrand, there had been a period of hope for many immigrants, particularly from North Africa [in 1981]’ explains Chevrolet. In 1984, Mitterrand’s socialist government implemented a sweeping reform that strengthened the rights of immigrants by introducing a combined residence and work permit for foreign residents, valid for up to 10 years. This was part of a post-1968 Paris philosophy that asserted that the idea of a unified, monolithic French culture was obsolete in a world where populations were changing more rapidly: “But the death of Oussekine was the beginning of a less rosy reality ‘ explains Chevrolet.