Journeying Home

By Andy Morimoto and Brooke Sauro

Dorothée Kellou (MAAS ’12) has a passion for film and the power it has to share narratives. In 2012, Kellou began fundraising to film a documentary about the legacy of French resettlement camps during the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962). Since the start of her campaign, Kellou has made significant strides toward production, and she hopes that her film will help shine a light on colonial power and its repressive apparatus.

The Algerian war is a sensitive subject for Kellou, who is French of Algerian descent. The war resulted in over a million casualties, and the French government resettled more than 3.5 million Algerians in camps under the army’s control out of fear that the people might support the National Liberation Army (ALN). Many died from starvation and disease. Others fled their communities in search of refuge. Kellou’s father, who grew up in the Algerian village of Mansourah during the war, was forced to live with several different families.

Revisiting her father’s experiences during the war was a deeply emotional journey for Kellou. While writing her master’s thesis, “Regroupement During the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962): A Case Study of The Village of Mansourah,” Kellou had the opportunity to travel with her father back to his old village—a place he had not seen in over fifty years. Along with other residents in Mansourah, Kellou’s father provides her thesis and forthcoming film with poignant memories on life during war. “The perspective of the Algerian Muslim population will allow the audience to access the intimacy of Algerians’ silent memories and discover how they remember this troubling event of war,” Kellou says in a student blog post. Moreover, “[s]ome of the memories will be supplemented with archival images on resettlement of the Algerian Muslim population (when they exist) and translated into animated film clips.”

Kellou’s story has another inherent strength: her distinctive academic lens that she sharpened throughout her educational career. Growing up in Nancy, France, Kellou was always curious about the Arab world and its connections to the West. After studying international relations and Arabic during her undergraduate years at the Institute of Political Sciences in Lyon, she moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she furthered her understanding of the Arab world.

 In the fall of 2010, Kellou entered Georgetown’s Masters of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program to pursue a degree in history. Here she was challenged by the curriculum and enriched by the freedom she had to research her personal areas of interest. She considers her academic background as fundamental in her ability to bridge Western and Arab cultures, which are often misunderstood. “The MAAS program anchored me. The students, professors and staff provided me with moral, emotional, and intellectual support. I received useful analytical tools, and more importantly, pertinent tailored lessons that would help me make my film.”

Kellou admits that making a film about this topic has its challenges, and as a result, she will be taking time away from her project to attend documentary training at Ateliers Varan. Thus far, Kellou has successfully completed an online fundraising campaign of 15,000€ and has decided to work with French producer Yves Billon. She is currently in the process of negotiating a co-production agreement with Algeria.