Les Indésirables

LES INDÉSIRABLES Director Ladj Ly: “French Police Have a Complete Free Pass to Kill Blacks and Arabs” — Akoroko

During the Visionaries event at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Industry Conference, Ladj Ly, director of “Les Indésirables” (“Bâtiment 5”), expressed his concerns about the avoidance of discussions on police violence in French society. He stated that the French police seem to have an unchecked license to harm Black and Arab people and that the lack of a desire for change is hindering progress in France.

“As long as you have no political willpower to change things then they won’t change,” Ly said, adding that instances of police brutality in France have surged since he began his career.

Ly’s perspective is a reflection of a larger global narrative on racial injustice and police brutality. Over the past few years, there have been numerous instances worldwide where racial minorities have faced disproportionate violence from law enforcement.

Ly’s films serve as a lens through which we can view these issues in the context of French society.

ALSO READ: How Kourtrajmé Films Address Police Brutality and Social Unrest in France

Highlighting that the broader French public is now witnessing the kind of treatment that inner-city communities have endured for years, Ly also mentioned the Gilet Jaunes protest movement and how they faced similar police violence.

“The police have a complete free pass to kill Blacks and Arabs,” he said of the escalating situation, hinting at the possibility of a significant civil conflict. “The government doesn’t seem to have control of the police force anymore; it’s the police unions. It’s getting worse and worse, to the extent that we can only imagine some kind of civil war.”

During the conversation, Ly also touched upon recent riots in France and criticized French President Emmanuel Macron (“He said he was very moved and committed to political change, which of course he did very little of”), and spoke a little about his plans for the final installment of his Montfermeil film series set in the Parisian suburbs.

Set largely in an underprivileged Parisian suburb, Ly’s follow-up to LES MISÉRABLES (TIFF, 2019) is an indictment of racist policies that force the poor into unsafe and inadequate living conditions.

A crisis in a French housing complex predominantly inhabited by African immigrants inspires a young female tenant (Anta Diaw) to contest the mayoral position against an ineffectual white male stand-in (Alexis Manenti).

As the second installment in Ladj Ly’s Montfermeil trilogy, world premiering in the Special Presentations section at TIFF23, it’s a solid entry. But it’s a bit of a let-down relative to the incendiary first film that suggested a firebrand filmmaker had been born; albeit far from Med Hondo’s brand of French-African radical filmmaking.

Still, its message of resistance resonates. And while the oppressed literally do fight back in LES MISÉRABLES, ending in a proverbial blaze of glory, the uprising in LES INDÉSIRABLES takes on a more measured, conventional approach. Overall, it’s good. Just not as remarkable as the first film.

Ly has plans for a third and final chapter in the series of films, which will be set in the 1990s. “Each film corresponds to a decade [LES MISÉRABLES the 2010s, LES INDÉSIRABLES in the 2000s]; hopefully the third one will be in the 90s.”

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