If director Ismail Ferroukhi intended that ‘Le Grande Voyage‘ should be a story where the journey is just as important as the destination, then he has achieved this with distinction….
Le Grand Voyage – a trip worth taking
This remarkable film captures the relationship between a disaffected son and father on a road trip from Paris to Mecca. It is full of humour, pathos with searing moments of pain and frustration.
Reda (Nicolas Cazale) a young French-Moroccan and his old father (Mohamed Majd) drive from the south of France to Mecca in order for the father to do his pilgrimage. The strain, distance and tension between father and son are immediately evident as Reda reluctantly undertakes the task of driving his father to his destination. The years of misunderstanding has clearly created distance between the devout father and a son who has no understanding and appreciation of the ways of his father.
Along the way, father and son encounter an assortment of oddball characters that add to the gradual easing of tensions between the two as they pass through, Yugoslavia, turkey, Syria, Jordan and eventually reaching Mecca. These characters become representations of the mysteries and vicissitudes of life’s journey which the old man abhors and the young man yearns for. He is unable to comprehend the simple religiosity of his father who fulfills all his religious obligations as they go along. Without revealing too much about the end of the film, it would be safe to say that the city of pilgrims, Mecca, offers redemption and hope. Le Grand Voyage is superbly directed and Cazale and Majd are brilliant in capturing the tough love between father and son.
Ismail Ferroukhi said this about his film: ‘Reda and his father belong to a culture where communication between father and son is difficult, if not impossible. The gulf between them (generation, culture, language) is even wider because of their status as ‘exiles’ in France. I made this film to imagine this contact that travelling together makes inevitable. Reda and his father are shut up in a car in a forced cohabitation from which there is no possible escape, travelling through grandiose settings full of uncertainty and unexpected events, where they lose their bearings. Thus, they are forced to look at themselves, gradually shedding their roles as father and son and growing closer as their journey proceeds. Their conversation is reduced to the strict minimum, but it is through their silences that Reda and his father communicate the most. In the course of their journey and the people they meet, they come to understand what separates them but also what brings them together.’
Le Grand Voyage has won many awards including the best First Film award at the Venice Film Festival 2004, the Special Jury Prize of main Competition, Junior Jury Awards and Best film First Film Competition at the Namur Film Festival and the best film, best actor and the Argentinian critic’s prize at the Mar Del Plata Film Fest. (189)