“It’s crazy: you felt it coming! » Since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, following the massacre perpetrated by the Islamist group in the Hebrew state, on October 7, 2023, and the surge of anti-Semitic acts and remarks in France, Noé Debré has sometimes seen lending divinatory powers. His first feature film, The Last of the Jews, in theaters on January 24, indeed hits the news. The film sketches the banal life of a young man, the last Jew in his “hometown in the Paris suburbs”, surrounded by a deaf but tenacious anti-Semitism.
Film buffs like to recall that the 37-year-old director and screenwriter co-wrote with Blanche Gardin the screenplay for Problemos, a spicy comedy released in 2017, which featured the cool-headed survivors of a pandemic, seeming to anticipate the Covid-19 catastrophe …How, after that, can we not be tempted to believe in his foreknowledge? “Pfff, you talk, I developed The Last of the Jews for more than two years, with the impression of always being late,” laughs the filmmaker.
At the origin of the film, an image, that of “a young Russian Jew alone in the middle of a German city”, seen in a 2020 short film ( Masel Tov Cocktail, by Arkadij Khaet and Mickey Paatzsch), and conversations between friends.
“When the resurgence of anti-Semitism came up in discussions, I had the opinion of a left-wing guy in denial, like we’re exaggerating,” remembers Noé Debré, born Jewish in a “bourgeois” family in Strasbourg. “But, during one evening, I was struck by the story of a girl who told me that her parents, who lived in a city, had to live with the inscription “Long live Mohammed Merah” tagged in the elevator. Wondering every day which of the neighbors could have written that…”
From there, he began, with Elie Benchimol, an actor friend to whom he offered to become his writing collaborator, a work of collecting testimonies in the Parisian suburbs, in Saint-Denis, Bagnolet, Stains, Cachan, Clichy- sous-Bois or Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. “We thought we shouldn’t invent anything. The scenario therefore only reproduces situations that have been told to us. And we favored the everyday, not the most spectacular. »
“The film was already powerful. Suddenly it became necessary”
No threat or physical violence arises in The Last of the Jews . Its hero, Ruben Bellisha, a 26-year-old Sephardic Jew, without a diploma, jumping and adorning himself like a comic book character (Michael Zindel, extremely funny), lives in a housing project in “93” with his sick mother, Giselle (Agnès Jaoui).
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