Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

French actor Omar Sy talks about Diff award-winner Samba and upcoming movies Jurassic World and Chocolat

The winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in December, Samba, which closes the Francofilm Festival, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.
In Samba, Omar Sy is an illegal immigrant who becomes friends with a French woman, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Courtesy Alliance Française
In Samba, Omar Sy is an illegal immigrant who becomes friends with a French woman, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Courtesy Alliance Française

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting movie to close this year’s Franco­film Festival than Samba. The winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in December, which is decided by public vote, it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

Moreover, Samba’s themes of immigration and identity chime perfectly with the festival’s ethos of celebrating French-language cinema from around the world.

This fifth edition of the annual event showcases six movies from five countries across three continents, which will be simultaneously screened in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from Thursday, March 19,until Saturday, March 21.

Mixing humour, humanity and insight, Samba tells the tale of an illegal immigrant from Senegal, who strikes up a strange friendship with a burnt-out French executive, Alice, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. We found out more about the film from the famous face behind the film’s lead – the 37-year-old French actor Omar Sy.

As a successful actor, how easy was it for you to relate to Samba’s character and predicament? Did you do much research?

First, let me tell you that I am a son of immigration, although my father arrived in France in the 1960s and my mother in the 1970s – the immigration today is very different to what it was back then. So, yes, I had to prepare myself. I met a lot of people who were in the situation of Samba, or used to be in the same situation.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is also incredible in the film. How was she to work with off-camera?

What is off-camera, stays off-camera [laughs]. More seriously, we had a great relationship. She is an adorable person and there was a great ambience on the set. Charlotte is a great actress, so professional, and that makes things easier for her partners, particularly for me. It was my first love story on screen, so it made things even more interesting as an actor.

On Samba you worked once again with writer-directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, following the success of 2012’s The Intouchables. Do you have plans to collaborate again?

We like working together, we like telling stories the same way and are interested in the same topics. We don’t have any specific plans, but to answer your question, yes, yes, yes – I hope they will make me part of their next project. It is such a thrill to work with them.

The Intouchables also made you a huge celebrity at home. Did that contribute to your decision to move from France to Los Angeles?

I did not move out of France because of the fame. As an actor, you want to be famous, consciously or not. You enjoy being appreciated and recognised. After the huge success of the movie, I wanted to offer myself and my family some time. We decided to move for a year and have been there for three years now. Besides, Los Angeles is great for my kids.

What do you miss about France?

I miss my friends and family. Also, I miss French bread – the French baguette is unique and you can find it only in France.

What can you tell us about the upcoming Jurassic World, which is due out in June? Is it true your character makes it out of the film alive?

What can I tell you about Jurassic World? Well, nothing [laughs] – it is a secret.

The only thing I can tell you is that it was not only an honour to be part of it, but also a great pleasure to film. I remember enjoying the first movie so much as a kid. To find myself in it today is simply phenomenal.

No, I can tell you one other thing – it is a great film.

What else have you got coming up?

I am working in France on a movie directed by Roschdy Zem titled Chocolat. The film is about the first black clown in France, who went from being a slave in Cuba to a star of the circus scene in Paris before the First World War. After Chocolat, I am very excited to start the shoot for Inferno, the third episode of the Da Vinci Code series, in the United States.

Congratulations on Samba winning the Audience Choice Award at Diff last year. Any chance we can tempt you to visit to the UAE soon?

First, let me tell how proud and touched I am to be appreciated in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and in the Gulf in general.

Dubai is a great city, I know the city and I love it. I started to come to Dubai for vacations several years ago, before it became so trendy and popular, with my childhood friend Nicolas Anelka, the football player. It has everything you could wish for, especially for a big kid like me.

I was sincerely hoping to participate in Francofilm in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but I am currently shooting Chocolat. However, I really look forward to coming soon to present a film to the UAE audience – why not Chocolat?

Samba, which will have English and Arabic subtitles. closes the Francofilm Festival on Saturday, March 21 at 6pm at Vox Cinema Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, and Vox Cinemas Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Tickets, Dh25, from www.voxcinemas.com

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: March 17, 2015 04:00 AM

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