Cannes Snapshot Review: Salam

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Viewed on Friday 27 May as press for the Cannes Film Festival 2022.

What happened to popular noughties French rapper, Mélanie Georgiades (popularly known as Diam’s), when she suddenly disappeared from the music industry overnight in 2008? After selling some four million albums and racking up hundreds of millions of YouTube views, Salam (2022) becomes a delicate documentary produced by BrutX that breaks Diam’s decade-long silence after she converted to Islam, which was met by shock and frustration by the French media at that time.

“All this stuff, the money, the success, the power did not make me happy. I was searching for happiness; I was very, very sad, and I was alone. I was wondering why I was on this earth. I knew it was not to be rich or famous, because I had those things, and they did not make me happy. So, I began searching for answers to all my questions” – Mélanie Diam’s, Arab News.

“Salam”, a salutation meaning “peace”, is an apt title for this revolutionary documentary that is a thorough exploration of all Diam’s questions, tackling the highs and lows of her unfulfilling music career and the journey she embarked on to find her self. Salam benefits from being structured around an endearing, authentic conversation with her mother and the reasons for her deep unhappiness. The two women sift through childhood photos, awards dedicated to Diam’s successful music career, and why she turned to the Qur’an for solace, before the film moves to Mauritius (where Diam’s relationship with the Qur’an began) and finally Mali to reveal Diam’s present aspirations.

“I had the feeling that I was being asked to give the keys to my life so that others could make a film of it. A show. My depression, my suffering, my quest, my recognition: a film?” – Mélanie Diam’s, HavanNews.

Diam’s entrusted her story to two directors, Houda Benyamina and Anne Cissé, after having been rejecting dozen others for years. You could tell Diam’s felt comfortable handing over the reigns to these women, considering how comfortable she was expressing incredibly personal life details. Her relationship with the media and producers, her depression, her failed suicide attempts, and the pockets of stories she narrates are extremely riveting.

Cannes review: Salam (2022) - ubiquarian

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However, the most inspiring segment in Salam is Diam’s dedication to charity work, featuring her commitment to funding an orphanage in Mali and organising missions to Niger, Morocco, and Mayotte during Ramadan. Diam’s never promoted her charity work, despite negative press in the newspaper associating her new-founded relationship with Islam as “concerning”, and this documentary just highlights how harmful bigotry and xenophobia could be. Questions are ergo raised, especially: What right does the media have to defame an artist who decides to step down from the public eye?

I entered this screening unaware of who Diam’s was and what the ‘controversy’ surrounding her life was. Even if you haven’t heard her music or even her name, you would end-up considering Diam’s your close friend by the end of this informative, and brilliantly engaging documented biography.

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