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Year: 2005
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Charles Berling, Simon Abkarian, Josiane Balasko, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Fabienne Babe, Mathieu Amalric, Azize Kabouche, Franšois Hadji-Lazaro, Jean-Marie Winling, Franck Tiozzo, Jo Prestia, Esteve Ferrer, Georges Bigot, Rony Kramer , Xavier Serrat, Brahim A´t-El-Kadi, Mona Fettou, Fayšal Khyari
Directors: Serge Le Peron, Said Smihi
Country: France
Language: French (English subtitles)
UK: 101 mins
UK Certificate: 12A contains moderate violence
UK Release Date: 20 October 2006 (Limited Release)
UK Distributor


January 1966: In a Paris flat police discover the body of Georges Figon, the man who broke the scandal of the Ben Barka affair and undermined Gaullist power.

A year earlier, tired of dodgy deals and petty scams, ex-con Georges Figon had gone in search of something big. Through his underworld connections he had got himself hired as producer for a documentary on decolonialisation to be written by Marguerite Duras and directed by Georges Franju. The well-known Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka was to be the film's 'historical advisor'. But the whole film project was a trap...

I SAW BEN BARKA GET KILLED examines a French political scandal of 1965 in which the Moroccan militant leader and anti-colonialist, Mehdi Ben Barka, disappeared after being intercepted by police in Paris. Ben Barka's kidnapping and probable murder is shown in a mixture of historical fact and imaginative speculation. Serge Le Peron recreates the background to Mehdi Ben Barka's abduction, with underworld figure Georges Figon (Charles Berling), an ex-convict from a bourgeois background, who narrates - Sunset Boulevard style - from the floor of the apartment where he supposedly killed himself.

Figon has been trying to become a legitimate film producer whilst keeping his friendly contacts with the organized criminal underworld. In an effort to offset his spiralling debts he sets in motion a plan to make a documentary about the end of colonialism to be written by Marguerite Duras, (played by Josiane Balasko) and to be directed by Georges Franju, extraordinarily played by Jean-Pierre Leaud. Egged on by others, he persuades Mehdi Ben Barka (Simon Abkarian) to be the historical consultant on the movie and arranges to meet him at the famous Brasserie Lipp. However, the Moroccan is stopped for questioning by two French policemen in front of the restaurant and later disappears. The film project was a trap dreamt up by the Moroccan Secret Service and the fatally compromised Figon soon finds himself out of his depth.

Serge Le Peron's fourth feature I SAW BEN BARKA GET KILLED aka J'AI VU TUE BEN BARKA is an immensely atmospheric and Melville-esque thriller - it's French brand of film noir and recreation of mid 60's Paris using archive footage and evocative jazz.

The entire cast gives wonderfully believable performances in particular the mesmerizing Charles Berling as Georges Figon. All this serves to provide a breathtaking thriller with a wealth of subplots and characters,

"I myself was a teenager at the time and I remember attending the trial, which took place in 1966. The Ben Barka affair was a huge story that shook the Gaullist government and revealed a parallel political system operating under the cover of the official regime...So it was the disturbing idea that Ben Barka had been abducted - you could say - because of cinema that gave me the idea to retell this tragic story and make it into a film." - Serge Le Peron

Serge Le Peron was born in 1948. He was a critic at Cahiers du Cinema from 1976-84 and is remembered particularly for his study of Palestinian Cinema. He made his first feature in 1984, LAISSE BETON, before becoming director-presenter of the TV magazine Cinema Cinemas. He co-founded ACID, a pressure group committed to the wider distribution of independent film. A tireless activist and teacher, he returned to feature filmmaking in 2000.

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