"The power of photography is terrible"

After more than ten years away from the camera, Rim Turki returns to his first love, cinema and gaming, thanks to “Memory Box”, in theaters on January 19. The actress is gripping with emotions as a mother reluctant to reveal her teenage memories to her curious daughter. Interview.

Memory Box, at the cinema on January 19, recounts the adolescence of Maia, a Lebanese expatriate in Canada with her daughter Alex and her mother Têta. The form is important here: this journey through time takes place through the reception of a mysterious memory box. While Maia forbids Alex to dive into it, the teenager disobeys and discovers a correspondence between her mother at her age and a friend of hers, at the time of the Lebanon war. Audio cassettes, photos and notebooks make up these tangible, fascinating memories for the young girl. Rim Turki is this mother that we feel hurt, half there. Until this reminiscence of her younger years plunges her into dark but liberating emotional lands. With this role of “adult” Maia (Manal Issa plays the teenage version of the character), the actress explores the impact of secrecy and repressed emotions.
After a small role in The English Patient of Minghella in 1997 and a remarkable passage in The Gate of the Sun in 2004, Rim Turki had the opportunity to play in Munich by Spielbeg in 2005. The following year, she was co-screenwriter of The Soldier’s Star, directed by her husband, documentary filmmaker Christophe de Ponfilly, who died before the film was released.
From her years away from the big screen, the actress took the opportunity to become a psychotherapist and admits not having thought about the cinema during all this time. Good news for viewers: his experience with filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige made him want to reconnect with this childhood dream. The box is reopened.

After more than 10 years without touring, what made you say yes to Memory Box ?
Rim Turki
: I didn’t say yes right away, I was so surprised that someone spontaneously thought of me to play in a film, looked for me and asked me! I was so amazed that I felt compelled to go and see what it was all about, to re-meet Khalil and Joana, whom I knew a little. I was scared because the cinema was behind me and it suited me very well like that. I hadn’t decided not to play anymore, but life took me elsewhere. It unsettled me a lot. I think I tried everything not to do it and I had to face the facts: everything was there so that I couldn’t refuse this gift of life, so I ended up accepting.

What was decisive in this choice?
Rim Turki
: When something so strange happens to us, you can’t refuse it. You have to do it and see after. When I made the decision, and luckily I made it, I was so happy to dive into it and open up again, to find all those feelings that are part of me that I had hidden for so long.

Clémence Sabbagh, Paloma Vauthier and Rim Turki in “Memory Box” © Haut et Court

Joana and Khalil work without having their actors read the script… Was that a particular comeback?
Rim Turki
: It was more of a somersault than a dive. I loved working this way. Basically, I knew who Maia was, her background and the main things: that she had a daughter, that she lived with her mother, that she had been in Montreal for a number of years, but what was going on happen exactly as the scenes go, I didn’t know that. Sometimes I was informed a quarter of an hour before the shooting. There were also surprises. For the church scene, the Ave Maria went off without my expecting it. Emotion took hold of me. It was very exciting to reconnect with this little danger, this vertigo that you feel when you shoot, but which is usually marked by the fact of knowing what you are going to play. There, we are always on a wire, which is at the same time frightening, subtle and magical.

How did Maia’s story interest you?
Rim Turki
: Through the character of Maia, there are so many themes that touch me intimately… Among them, exile. I am the granddaughter of a Spanish anarchist forced to leave Spain during the war. This exile marked us enormously in the family. My grandparents left their country painfully. I feel it deeply with intergenerational transmission. Being of Spanish and Tunisian origin while living in Paris, I am always a bit elsewhere. It is sometimes complicated, but it has also become a form of freedom.

What place do images have in your life?
Rim Turki
: I was doing photography when I was young. I even exhibited twice at the time. Today, I have a special relationship with it. As time goes by, seeing pictures of my youth or even of my daughter when she was very young is painful, it moves me a lot. The power of the photo is terrible, it can fill with joy, but it can also carry such a strong emotional charge that sometimes I prefer not to see prints that I like. When I saw through Maia’s eyes the photos of her youth, of her friends, of herself, it really shook me up.

The archives, notebooks and photos of the film are taken from the personal effects of Joana and Khalil. What has changed for you?
Rim Turki
: There was no pressure, but an energy that circulated between us, in which affect, memories, historical facts, war, friendship… These themes speak to us all so much that I felt it very strongly too.

What difference does it make to shoot with visual artists who don’t just make movies?
Rim Turki
: It was very impressive to witness their setting up of invisible things, to feel that they knew what we were doing when many of us were unaware of everything. I suspected that many things escaped us and indeed, by seeing the film I understood.

“By putting myself in danger with this shoot, I found a lot of things from my adolescence”

Do you often think about the notion of transmission, about what you communicate to your daughter for example?
Rim Turki
: I think about what I transmit, what I do not transmit and what I cannot transmit. There are things that are not easy, but that we must pass on to our children. I became a psychotherapist, that’s why I haven’t toured for so long. So inevitably, I know a lot about questions of the intergenerational unconscious. We all have an interest in opening the box. For oneself and for our children, it is necessary to put all that flat, even if it means suffering a little.

In the film, Alex does not recognize his mother Maia when she discovers her as a teenager. What remains of the teenager you were?
Rim Turki
: By putting myself in danger with this shoot and this character, I found a lot of things from my adolescence since that’s what I wanted to do: be an actress, get out of my comfort zone, feel this delicious little danger in which we put ourselves when we accept a project. Meeting people, being in a bubble all together for a while, it’s all part of my childhood dreams and thanks to Khalil and Joana, I reconnected with it.

What would you discover if you opened your own memory box?
Rim Turki
: That’s a nice question. I believe that if we opened our memory box, we would find our dreams. Some are still intact and others have given way to dreams even closer to the essentials. Maybe some dreams weren’t essential and we evolve to tend towards simpler desires. It is maturity.

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