“It’s still difficult for a woman to conduct an orchestra”

Ua baguette placed on a music stand as a conductor’s baton. This is one of the stills from the film Entertainment, in theaters Wednesday, Jan. 25, following the learning journey of conductor Zahia Ziouani and her twin, cellist Fettouma Ziouani. We follow the arrival of two young women of Algerian descent from Seine-Saint-Denis in 1995, played by the impeccable Oulaya Amamra (Zahia) and Lina El Arabi (Fettouma), in their final year at lycée Racine in Paris. A journey full of humiliations, class hatred, misogyny and racism, but a journey that shows the hard work of two sisters and their place in their family and their father’s love of classical music. Not forgetting their iron determination and seeing Zahia create his own symphonic orchestra in Stains: Divertimento. An orchestra that has proven itself at the highest level after more than twenty years.

The music is certainly one of the film’s strengths, with the cast of the orchestra being real musicians, and a number of musical sequences being filmed over extended periods of time, which allow us to discover, or at least underline, his lesser-known work. conductor to learn to conduct musicians. Take a look at the project of his life with conductor Zahia Ziouani.

Point: How did this film project come about?

Zahia Ziouani: The two producers’ desire to film classical music and its place, especially in the suburbs. Originally, this was supposed to be fiction. But slowly, like the distributors, they saw that it might be more interesting to rely on my own story. This is how the film project was born Entertainment. Then they asked the director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar and that’s how we got to know each other, we started working together so that she could get to know us, understand our story and do everything. , write a script about my journey and my twin Fettouma.

Is it all true, or is some stuff just fiction?

Everything is very fair, even if there are adjustments in temporality for narrative reasons. Some elements in the film sometimes take place over several years. These are the themes that are the DNA of the Divertimento orchestra today: for example, the scene in the prison or the social center, these are the things that embody the commitment of the orchestra built over time. But in 95% everything is true.

Were you asked to choose an actress to portray you? What was it like working with him after that?

The director had already seen Oulaya Amamra, who he thought was really good to play my role. When I met her, I found out that she listens little to classical music, doesn’t really know the orchestral world, but at the same time is a very sensitive girl, and above all, like him, she dances very classically, reacts very well to music… She also has a head carriage was, a very graceful posture resulting from this dance practice.

Then we worked hard for him to better understand the universe of orchestra and music. I listened to the works, conducted as a student so that he could learn conducting. So even though he didn’t know how to read music, he was capable of anything. He trained as a real conductor, and in the film he actually conducts the orchestra. It is he who gives the departures and musical intentions. He managed to be spontaneous and personify me with my facial expressions and body expressions… I think he is very successful in this regard. It was a lot of work, a big challenge, and at the same time a very nice human encounter between him and me.

What did you feel in front of this film that reminds you of your beginnings and youth?

Above all, it allowed me, who was too focused on the road I had yet to reach, to turn around and say to myself, “All this is accomplished. And then, it’s quite a strange feeling to relive all the parts of your life that other people have played. I felt lucky, it’s an opportunity few people get. I thought it was good because it allows other youth of today to identify and project themselves. It was reassuring at times to see that some things had developed between what I had experienced and now. This reinforced my choice to set up an orchestra at Stains at the time.

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And then, sometimes, it was difficult. Because the difficulties I faced twenty-five years ago are still there today. In the music world, in society, there are still people who look at people from different backgrounds in a very kind light. Today we celebrate the film Entertainment, we celebrate the orchestra, we celebrate me, but still it is difficult for a woman to conduct an orchestra. If I hadn’t started my own orchestra, I would have had very little opportunity to conduct, unlike my male colleagues. There are more pressing issues in this film than those about access to culture and the place of women. It was also difficult to relive the scenes that destabilized me a few years ago.

Were you involved in choosing the songs we hear and see played in the film?

There are pieces of music that the director liked because of their poetic dimension, such as Faure’s “Apres un rêve”, which we played a lot with the orchestra. But after what we have heard, for example, Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Bacchanal Dance”, Ravel’s “Bolero”, Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”, these are emblematic works of the Divertimento orchestra. It seemed obvious and inevitable that it was also the music of the film. And what I think is very successful is that there is actually no original music. It is classical music that is emphasized from the beginning to the end and shows the power, beauty and emotions of this music.

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The film chronicles your journey as a conductor, while centering the relationship with your twin…

What I especially appreciate about this movie is that it also shows that you can’t achieve anything on your own and that you have to be humble. Because I cannot exist without a musician; I wouldn’t have succeeded without my family. My sister and I formed a duo, we supported each other a lot, and being together allowed us to go through tests that we might not have been able to go through alone, without the codes of networks and classics. the world of music. This movie is also a beautiful tribute to family and the education we received, it allowed my sister and I to dream big.

The young musicians we see in the film are not actors, but real musicians. We also see one of the winners of the film being shot miracles, France 2 program with you as conductor and accompanied by the Divertimento orchestra. Can we see a nod in this to a program that encapsulates several of your values: the democratization and transmission of classical music?

miracles or this film, these are other ways to describe my commitment to the field. Implementation of these projects is important. This past Tuesday was the grand preview at the Grand Rex. But the day before I played with the Divertimento orchestra in the middle of the Moselle countryside. They are full of small villages, yet we had a concert with over 1000 people. Today I am training in Sene-Saint-Denis with the youth of the Stains academy, and in a few weeks we will play at the Rond-Point theater and then at the Philharmonie de Paris.

Every day I am in the countryside, in the countryside, in the cities, in prisons, to give more access to classical music. To make this music accessible, I do it today by being on stage, in the square, but there are other ways to democratize it in other forms and sometimes on a larger scale – a show or this film. Because inevitably, media, television and cinema create greater opportunities for influence. I am also very happy to have these opportunities, and it resonates with the commitment and actions I have carried out for twenty-five years.

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Entertainment, in theaters from January 25. Director: Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, Oulaya Amamra, Lina El Arabi, Niels Arestrup. Meet at the Rond-Point theater in Paris on March 30 at 8:30 pm to discover the real Divertimento orchestra. TitanA new show based on Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 1”.

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