Ladj Ly’s feature directorial debut clings to the provocative nature of La Haine with empathy and ferocity.
It may have the same title as Victor Hugo’s infamous story, but this French drama, apart from being set in the same area of Paris as a section of his novel, is in no way yet another adaptation. Doused in timely themes of immigrants and rebellion against the police, it is reminiscent of the provocative nature of La Haine.
Set in Montfermeil, in the suburbs of Paris, in the space of approximately 24 hours. Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) has left the tranquillity of the countryside to move to the city to be with his family and has recently joined the Anti-Crime Squad. Teamed up with the burly Gwada (Djebril Zonga) and the mouthy and misogynistic Chris (Alexis Manenti), he quickly discovers tensions running high between local gangs as they tour the mean streets of the town.
With many years experience under their belts, Gwada and Chris are on friendly (ish) terms with the local criminal element from the self-proclaimed Mayor of the streets to an ex-drug-dealer turned peace-loving Muslim who runs the local kebab house. Even the gangs of wild and unruly, obnoxious kids running around the poverty-stricken estates are on a first-name basis with these cops. Once the introductions have been set, the beating heart of this story comes alive as a beloved Tiger cub has been stolen from the local gipsy circus unleashing all types of violent hell.
Thanks to the use of Instagram, it becomes clear which teen stole the cub, but after a tension fuelled battle, tempers snap and a flare gun is fired and a drone having captured the whole incident leaves the cops in a battle not just for their careers but also their lives.
Written and directed by Ladj Ly who makes his feature film directorial debut has taken the style of a documentary and incorporated it into his story that was inspired by the 2005 Paris riots with an eye-opening intensity fuelled with a passion of giving a voice to those whose patience had snapped due to the bigoted and blinkered treatment of law enforcement. Ly’s empathetic storytelling opens the gates of realisation that America doesn’t hold the monopoly on Racism.
Les Miserables is out in the UK and Ireland September 4th