Omar Sy confides in RTL info, talking about his new film: “It made me question the notion of sacrifice”

French actor Omar Sy presents the film “Tirailleurs” by Mathieu Vadepied, a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Africans who fought for France during the world wars. He gave an interview to RTL INFO on the occasion of the release of the film.

“Tirailleurs” tells the story of young Thierno, forcibly recruited in a small Senegalese village by the French army in 1917, and his father who voluntarily enlists to watch over him in this leap into the unknown, the discovery of France plunged into the hell of the Great War.

Created by Napoleon III in 1857 in Senegal, hence its name, the infantry corps of skirmishers then expanded in its recruitment to men from other regions of West and Central Africa conquered by France at the end of the 19th century. The skirmishers were more than 200,000 to fight during the First World War, 150,000 for the Second, 60,000 in Indochina. This is one of the first times their story has been brought to the screen.

It made me question the notion of sacrifice

Why did you want to make this film?

There are plenty of reasons. I wanted to work with Mathieu Vadepied, who was the cinematographer in Intouchables. We were at the Intouchables canteen and he told me about his desires to be a director and about this idea he had about skirmishers and he hooked me with a question: “And if the Unknown Soldier was a Senegalese skirmisher?

And there, indeed, this question raised a lot of questions and to answer all these questions, I wanted to make the film.

In your opinion, the history of the skirmishers is too little known?

Yes, precisely because there were very few answers to all these questions that I had and to answer, sometimes, the film can help. It’s very little known, in any case even when we know something about it, it’s rather vague, it’s not very precise.

Is there an educational dimension through this film?

Yes, already for me. It’s so that I can expand my own culture. And I share the few things that I have been able to learn.

The film also talks about a relationship between a father and his son, is this a role that you like to embody?

Yes, I like it. This is the kind of relationship that interests me, because it is a relationship that I actually live twice. I am father, I am son. So I’m still interested in that link. It’s quite strong and I think there’s no better place to tell a story than to actually tell the links. Especially when you have a subject as big as that, that is to say the First World War.

To introduce the skirmishers, I think it’s good to go through the intimate. So this father-son story also serves for all that. And it is true that I have often played fathers and I think that I will continue.

Are there points in common between your role as a father in this film and the one you are in life?

Obviously, I couldn’t tell you which ones but I imagine that mechanically, there must be some. I think there are instinctive things, which come into place, which are already there.

I also think that the fact of having played in Fulani, there are also things from my father which came to be grafted onto Bakary (Editor’s note: his character). I think there is a bit of all that.

But to tell you what exactly, I don’t know. What is certain is the love he has for his son. I think, I haven’t thought much… but I think I love my kids (laughs).

Did making this film have an impact on your life?

Always… But once again, saying what is complicated. But each time we cross a character, that we have it for a few months even sometimes and that we cross his life, we always draw something from it. But it’s complicated to say, especially so freshly.

In any case, what is certain is that it actually made me question the notion of sacrifice. In what we tell ourselves, what we are ready to do for our child and what we are “really” ready to do.

What is the difference? I’m not sure we’re all equal in this.