When I first went into the Source grocery store in Epinay-sur-Seine, Ali offered me a coffee – served on the freezers, between the ham slicing machine and the newspaper available to everyone. The clients and regular customers who passed through his store recounted, as was their wont, the mini events of their lives: rain, sunshine, present worries, life in the high-rise blocks, TV programs.
A sense of solitude, distress, but also a buoyant mood and much good humor – as though to make life’s slightly bitter taste more palatable – echoed from these various conversations.
This was in 1999. I visited Ali regularly for several months, above all in the morning, to share the breakfast ritual with Jeanine, Bertho, Jamaa, and the others. I think that I also became a regular.
I quickly understood that this place would give me the possibility of continuing my quest: to film time in a place, to film time that passes by focusing on people, faces, and their destinies. To also film a way of existing together – a little ‘trader’s,’ that would return to the word’s original meaning: a place of exchange, where we nourish ourselves. – Chantal Briet