#02 French Selection

Avant que le ciel n’apparaisse

Before the sky came to light

Denis Gheerbrant

2021France85 min

A horde of wild horses, historians who sing songs of the colonial war against the Russian empire, young people dancing on a public square, villagers cobbling together their own museum : in a small Caucasian republic, a whole people remembers. And, all along, the painter Rouslan Tsrimov guides us into the way of living and the thoughts of the Nartes, the mythical ancestors, as recounted by their saga.


Rouslan Tsrimov paints, and writes, in order to reveal something in the night. The night that fell on the Circassian people in the mid-19th century, when Russia’s imperial army finally forced this warrior people of the northern Caucasus to capitulate. They were one of the last to withstand the colonial war. The flame that infuses a little light into the painting and words is the ancient myth whose saga gave this people its imaginary, its identity, its moral code. The survival of the Circassian saga of the Nartes – the “kernel of a way of living” – is what Rouslan Tsrimov and a few others are trying to ensure by interpreting it: the painter’s gestures are the latest outgrowth of a movement ignited by the foundational narrative. They are also proof that there can be continuity through the nothingness of wars and extermination. The film is modestly and limpidly constructed by Denis Gheerbrant, who along with Lina Tsrimova (Rouslan’s daughter, also researching the Caucasian war) calmly gathers the stories. The result is a wisdom in symmetry with the guardians of memory. Thanks to the work of Rouslan and others, this continuity can be seen in the words and in the immemorial landscapes where they are recorded, as in the pages of a book which, as it slowly unfolds, forms the poignant image of the fragile thread that keeps memory alive.

Jérôme Momcilovic

  • After graduating in filmmaking and shooting from the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies (IDHEC), until the 1990s he worked both in documentary photography and shooting for fiction and documentary films. At the same time, he made his first films. He directed films including And the Life (1991), Life Is Immense and Full of Dangers (1994), AFTER, a Journey in Rwanda (2004), The Republic of Marseille (2009), We Have Stricken (2014).

Production : Les Films d’Ici (Richard Copans), Mal’famés films (Walid Bekhti)
Screenplay : Lina Tsrimova et Denis Gheerbrant
Cinematography, editing : Denis Gheerbrant
Sound : Bashir Khatsouk, Dominique Vieillard
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