In Mansourah, You Separated Us

Directed by Dorothée-Myriam Kellou

71 minutes / Color
French; Arabic / English subtitles
Release: 2020
Copyright: 2019

An older man walks through piles of rubble—stone heaps and the remnants of walls on the outskirts of a village in rural Algeria. Like a host giving guests a tour of his home, he points out where kitchen, bedrooms, and other rooms once stood. “This is where I was born and grew up,” he says. “I lived here from the day I was born until they deported us.”

IN MANSOURAH, YOU SEPARATED US tells the story of some of those deportations. It starts off seeming like a father-daughter story, as French filmmaker Dorothée-Myriam Kellou accompanies her father, Malek, on his return home to the village of Mansourah, Algeria for the first time since his childhood. Malek places a framed photo of his mother on a stack of boxes in his abandoned childhood home, and shares memories—including of the time he was nearly killed by a flare set off by the French military.

During the Algerian war of independence, Mansourah was one of thousands of communities the colonial French rulers turned into resettlement camps for the more than 2.3 million Algerians forcibly displaced by the French military. The story of these deportations remains largely unknown, both in France and among younger generations of Algerians.

IN MANSOURAH, YOU SEPARATED US shows the ongoing effects of this cruel policy, as Malek and Dorothée-Myriam visit people in the region with vivid recollections of the events. One man recalls his family being loaded into a truck and driven off while a French soldier insisted he remain behind. Another shows his scars from bullet wounds and talks about being troubled by the men he killed. Malek admits to ongoing nightmares. A group of Algerian freedom fighters took to the nearby hills, where the government bombed them with napalm. One of them, a fragile-looking elderly man recalls hiding in a cave, is one of the few who survived—his clothes burned and his eyes seared shut from the attack.

Malek serves as guide and translator for the viewers and his daughter, who does not speak Arabic and is shocked by the silence surrounding the deportations. IN MANSOURAH, YOU SEPARATED US helps to break that silence. This film sheds light on a largely silenced, yet essential part of Algerian-French colonial history.

"Highly recommended! A visual memoir [and a] set of oral histories. This is the narrative of the people not the powerful. We encounter the lasting images and wounds from that battle with a colonial power that interrupted youth and continue to shape adulthoods." Michael Pasqualoni, Syracuse University, in the journal Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

"Kellou has made a salutary contribution to the sound archive of the Algerian War, one that seeks to reveal the 'subjectivity' of those who experienced resettlement rather than to tell a conventional history."Diana Wylie, Ph.D., Boston University, in the International Journal of African Historical Studies

"A painful voyage back to the silenced Algerian War of Independence. Kellou trusts in the importance of the offered facts and in the sincerity of those portrayed." Dieter Wieczorek, Modern Times Review

"Timely, intimate and personal; evocative and respectful… a vivid and emotional portrait of the forgotten."
Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film

"Explores a staggering, yet largely ignored, dimension of French colonial history in Algeria. [Kellou’s] film provides a useful counterpoint to the heroic feature films of the post-independence period that mythologize Algeria’s struggle for independence, while quietly connecting this historical blind spot to more recent social and political upheavals."Suzanne Gauch, Ph.D., Temple University, in the journal African Studies Review

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Select Accolades

  • MESA Middle East Studies Association Film Festival 2020
  • International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 2019
  • Arab Film Festival 2019
  • Visions du Réel Documentary Festival 2019


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