‘Les Misérables’: French Cinema Is Insular, and Director Ladj Ly Wants to Shake It Up

IndieWire | 1/1/2020 | Staff
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Ladj Ly’s racially charged feature debut, “Les Misérables,” which won the 2019 Jury Prize at Cannes, was selected by France’s Oscar committee as the country’s submission for the international feature film competition. It was a historical decision, as it marked the first time that France chose a film by a black filmmaker to represent it at the Academy Awards.

Now officially nominated in the category, should it win, it would set another record: the first time that a film by a black filmmaker has won the Oscar in the seven decades the category has existed.

Ly - Competition - Bong - Joon - Ho

Ly faces stiff competition, with Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” almost guaranteed to win the category. However, Ly understands the context of his nomination for his career, but for other black French filmmakers as well.

“You can probably count the number of black filmmakers in France on one hand, because French cinema is still a closed system that favors the elite,” Ly said. “People who look like me are not expected to participate, so the attention the film is getting sends an important message to those who want to make films, but never thought of it as something that’s meant for them, because they don’t see themselves on the screen.”

Per - Ly - Misérables - Conversations - Insularity

Per Ly, “Les Misérables” has inspired conversations around the insularity of French cinema culture. It has also ignited discussions around the issues the film provocatively tackles, and Ly is working toward a future France in which young French people of color find access. He believes that the system, as it exists, will not accommodate them.

To that end, Ly spearheads a free film school called Kourtrajmé, the same name as the filmmaking collective where he got his start 20 years ago. Open to anyone, it provides particular opportunities for French youth of color to learn the craft, network, and become part...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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