Synopsis by Josh Ralske
The kidnapping and assassination of Moroccan political activist Mehdi Ben Barka, fictionalized in Yves Boisset's L'Attentat in 1972, gets a more historically accurate treatment in Serge Le Péron's noirish docudrama, the tabloid-headline-titled I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed. The film is narrated by cynical ex-con Georges Figon (Charles Berling), whose dead body is shown at the film's opening. Figon talks about the heady times, as newsreel footage of the civil rights movement and the anti-colonial uprisings of the 1960s is shown. In flashbacks, Figon wants to be a film producer, and has connections to screenwriter Marguerite Duras (Josiane Balasko) who puts him in touch with director Georges Franju (Jean-Pierre Léaud). Figon keeps promising to make his actress girlfriend, Anne-Marie Coffinet (Fabienne Babe), a star. But he still has ties to the underworld, and through them he meets the shady Chtouki (Azize Kabouche), a Moroccan operative who offers him a lot of money to scrap his current filmmaking plans to make a documentary about the worldwide anti-colonial movement. Chtouki's main interest is that the exiled Barka (Simon Abkarian) be hired as a consultant on the doc, so that he'll come to Paris to meet with Figon, Franju, and Philippe Bernier (Mathieu Amalric). On the day of the meeting, Figon watches from the café window as the French police intercept Barka and take him away. After witnessing what becomes of Barka, Figon grows increasingly concerned for his own safety, and goes to the press with a sensationalized version of the events. I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed was shown by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2006 as part of their annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.