MAINTENANCE. With “Rest a little”, Gad Elmaleh pays tribute to his parents

Gad Elmaleh premiered his latest film “Reste un peu” at the La Roche-sur-Yon International Film Festival. After the screening, we met the actor-director of a very personal film. (Article originally published last October)

Gad Elmaleh, in your latest film “Reste un peu”, you play your own role: a Gad who returns from the United States to convert to the Catholic religion. Why did you want to tackle the theme of religions?

The United States was a very important moment for me, a bubble. During this American period, I tried to get out of my comfort zone, to take risks, to change. It was not a conversion but an earthquake in my career. It was a real upheaval, but not comparable to what one can experience in religion and in faith.

And I chose to tackle the theme of conversion because I realized that I loved and was passionate about religions, all religions, all affiliations. For different reasons.

Through my personal path, I had encountered different religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. I say rub shoulders, not practice. I grew up in an Arab Muslim country which is Morocco, within a Jewish community, Sephardim, practicing, traditionalists and also with Catholics.

Morocco is a land of tolerance quite unique, quite singular with a model from which many countries can draw inspiration

The reason there is this tolerance and brotherhood in Morocco is because people know each other. In France, we speak of secularism of course. But I always thought that secularism should not eclipse spirituality, faith, affiliations, communities.

I wanted to talk about religion in France without it getting tense, without people coming to talk about religion only when there is a problem, when there are tragedies

We can’t live together if we don’t know each other, if we don’t go to the source. So I go to the source: what is this faith? What are these religions? Conversion, the theme fascinates me. Add to that my personal path, I’m passionate about it… and I’m studying theology at the same time, so I’m fully into it.

Is it difficult to talk about religion today in France?

Difficult, it is not the word, but it is necessary to expect a tension. I don’t know if it is legitimate, but it is understandable with France’s past with religion, with the past of the communities that are part of the French population and religions.

But I wanted to talk about it with light, talk about it with peace.

I wanted to present the Church, the men and women of the Catholic community with light and not only through excesses, which does not prevent them from being condemned. I wanted to present Judaism also in the film as wisdom with a lot of humor and a lot of depth… And show the journey of Mehdi, this young Muslim in the film who goes towards Catholicism. I wanted this film to be a great gathering of people who are searching. Me, I like researchers, I don’t like finders! (smile)

There have already been French comedies on religion, on social diversity, on different cultures. Was it difficult to be more serious when tackling this theme?

I was part of the cast of a comedy that I love “The truth if I lie”. The screenwriters, Michel Munz and Gérard Biton, and Thomas Gilou, the director, had chosen to go more towards the cultural, the accent, the speech, the clothes, the customs, the traditions. They did not address religion. There, I wanted to go really on faith, on those who believe. It’s really something that works for me. So, would you say it was easy? No. I had apprehension. I knew it wasn’t the most comfortable thing.

In the film, there is a priest, a nun, a rabbi. How did the exchanges go with all these people.

I didn’t know they were going to be in the movie. Initially, they were only consultants. Then, over time, I said to myself that to celebrate a mass, for example, there is nothing better than taking two cameras, putting them in the church and filming the mass.

It’s the cinema-truth side that I like.

And it is also your real parents, your sister, your best friend who play their own role.

This film is also a declaration of love to my parents. I didn’t have to convince them, they were pretty keen. My father had already had roles in films. My mother has never played but she is gifted. I think she’s even a little better than my dad.

I will tell you an anecdote. On the first day of shooting, they are both in the frame, in bed. My mother does her line like a top of the class and my father has to follow up behind. But instead, he is in the moon, nothing. And there, in the middle of filming, my mother nudges him and says to him “It’s yours !”

I say : ” Cut! Mom, you can’t do this, we’re filming, it’ll show.“And she who answers me:” It’s you ! You tell me it’s the truth, that we’re your parents. It’s the truth, that too.”

It illustrates the atmosphere there was on the film, it was quite light. It was quite sweet. And there are always funny moments when the line is very fine between reality and fiction.

Precisely, in this film, you play a Gad, in his fifties, who is looking for himself. Are you also in this midlife crisis?

Totally in this crisis, in this quest, in this desire to change things, in resolutions, in a quest for meaning above all. I think the period we lived through, with the COVID, the different crises, guided us towards a form of search for meaning, for truth.

Everyone talks about what we experience in a somewhat external way, like telecommuting, but all of these are things where people finally try to reconnect, to be close to their family, to be close to values

We are anesthetized with the madness of work. We have to be profitable, we have to be productive and inevitably, we sometimes forget certain values. Now I want to spend more time with my family. I want to look for meaning.

I have a friend who told me, seeing the film, that it’s the story of a son who says goodbye to his parents and I quite agreed. In fact, this son decides to continue on his way and at the same time he pays homage. I pay homage to my parents. It’s also a family story, a declaration of love.”

See you in theaters on November 16 for “Reste a peu”, d e and with Gad Elmaleh, also with Regine Elmaleh and David Elmaleh.

MAINTENANCE. With “Rest a little”, Gad Elmaleh pays tribute to his parents