Frank Cassenti, committed director and jazz enthusiast, died

Frank Cassenti, committed director and jazz enthusiast, died


Director, actor, inventor of the Jazz festival in Porquerolles, Frank Cassenti died in La Ciotat (Bouches-du-Rhône), Friday December 22, surrounded by his family, following a devastating cancer. Born on August 6, 1945 in Rabat (Morocco), in a, as they say, modest environment, he was 78 years old. It was in Algiers, in 1962, that he became a double bass player.

At 17, studying in Lille, he frequented the anarcho-communist movement. He co-directs the film club of the National Union of Students of France with Michèle-Annie Mercier. Together, in 1968, they made their first short film, Flash Parc , indirectly produced by Jean-Luc Godard and selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. At that time, with Chris Marker and a few comrades, he developed a simple project: cinema as a tool for struggle and experimentation.

In 1973, Frank Cassenti directed his first feature film, again with Michèle-Annie Mercier, Salut, thieves! (with Jacques Higelin, Jean-Luc Bideau, Claude Melki and Laszlo Szabo). The Aggression (1973), a short fiction film inspired by the very real murder of an immigrant worker, was banned by the censors. Ban lifted after a press campaign. The film becomes a manifesto for the associative networks which fight against racism and fascist violence.

Jean Vigo Prize in 1976

With producer Pascal Aubier (Les Films de la Commune), Frank Cassenti directed L’Affiche rouge (with actors and survivors of the Manouchian group), filmed at La Cartoucherie de Vincennes, Prix Jean Vigo, in 1976. Sent by Antenne 2 in Cuba in 1978 with Régis Debray, Cassenti offered a report quickly deprogrammed by the “aesthetes” at the channel’s management, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, Louis Bériot and Patrick Poivre d’Arvor. The filmmaker’s protest was published by Le Monde .

In 1978, he made an epic film, La Chanson de Roland , with Alain Cuny, Pierre Clémenti and Laszlo Szabo. Cassenti meets Pierre Goldman, whose autobiography he wants to adapt, Obscure Memories of a Polish Jew Born in France (Seuil, 1975). After Goldman’s assassination by a far-right commando in September 1979, Cassenti produced Aïnama, salsa for Goldman , with his West Indian and South American musician friends.

In 1981, Cassenti directed Mourning in Twenty-Four Hours , a series for Antenne 2 with Richard Bohringer, adaptation of the novel by Vladimir Pozner which evokes the debacle of 1940. Critics’ prize, public success.

Memory of its origins

With Letter to Michel Petrucciani (1983) and Archie Shepp. I am jazz… it’s my life (1984), that of Cassenti also becomes jazz. Return to Africa (1993), filmed in Senegal and on the island of Gorée, where the slaves left, precedes the musical comedy Black Ballad (1990), with the singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and La Velle. Arte produces numerous documentaries on key figures in jazz, from Dizzy Gillespie to Nina Simone, including Miles Davis and Abbey Lincoln.

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