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Les Misérables 2019

Les Misérables


les-miserables
Les Miserables

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Ladj Ly's scalding drama is a modern take on the classic tale of police corruption and its victims.

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About the Les Misérables 💬


Inspired by the 2005 riots in Paris, LES MISÉRABLES - directed by Ladj Ly - follows Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), a recent transplant to the impoverished suburb of Montfermeil, as he joins the local anti-crime squad. Stéphane has recently joined the Anti-Crime Brigade in Montfermeil, in the Paris suburbs. Working alongside his unscrupulous colleagues Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), Stéphane struggles to maintain order amidst the mounting tensions between local gangs. When an arrest turns unexpectedly violent, the three officers must reckon with the aftermath and keep the neighborhood from spiraling out of control.

  • INTERVIEW WITH LADJ LY DIRECTOR

Q: LES MISÉRABLES is your first feature film, but you've been working in film for about 15 years. How did you get started?

Ladj Ly: When I was eight or nine years old, I was friends with Kim Chapiron (French screenwriter and director). During the holidays he'd come to the activity club in Montfermeil - that's how we met. At the age of 15, he created a collective called Kourtrajmé, with directors Romain Gavras and Toumani Sangaré. I was 17 at the time, and it was the early days of digital, I bought my first camera and I've never stopped shooting since. I filmed everything. We learned everything as we went along. We were young and crazy. Today we might be a little less crazy, but you always have to keep a bit of madness. We don't want to be stuck inside a box, which is unfortunately sometimes the case in the world of cinema.

Q: LES MISÉRABLES is your first classically produced feature film. Is it a culmination of all your experiences?

Ladj Ly: I'm not sure it's a culmination. I hope it's more a departure than an arrival. But it is true that in this film I talk a little about my life, my experiences and those of my relatives. Everything in it is based on actual events: the jubilation of the World Cup victory of course, the arrival of the new cop in the neighborhood, the drone, even the stolen lion and the gypsies. For five years I filmed everything that went on in my neighborhood, particularly the cops. The minute they'd turn up, I'd grab my camera and film them, until the day I filmed a real police blunder. I wanted to show the incredible diversity of these neighborhoods. I still live there: it's my life and I love filming there. It's my set!

Q: You tend to view all the protagonists without preconceptions or judgments?

Ladj Ly: Of course, because reality is always complex. There is bad and good on both sides. I try to film each character without judgment. We operate in such a complex world that it's difficult to make quick and definitive judgments. The neighborhoods are powder kegs, there are clans, and despite all this, we all try to live together and to avoid everything spinning out of control. I show this in the film - the daily accommodations everyone makes to get by.

Q: It seems everything happens against a backdrop of unemployment and poverty - the root of all the problems?

Ladj Ly: It's easy to live with each other when you have money. When you don't, it's a lot more complicated: you need compromises, arrangements, little deals... it's a matter of survival. For the cops too, they are in survival mode, things are tough for them too. LES MISÉRABLES is neither pro-lowlife nor pro-cops, I've tried to be as fair as possible. I was 10 years old when I was first stopped and searched by the police, which tells you how well I know cops, how long I've lived close by them. Most of these cops aren't well-educated - they themselves live in difficult conditions, and in the same neighborhood.

Q: Could we call LES MISÉRABLES a humanist, political film, in the sense that you don't judge individuals but implicitly denounce a system in which everyone ends up being a victim, residents and cops alike?

Ladj Ly: That's exactly it, and responsibility falls to the politicians. You could almost say things are going from bad to worse. Despite everything, we've all learned to live together in these neighborhoods - with 30 different nationalities living side to side.

Life in the suburbs is light years away from what the media shows you. How could the politicians ever be able to bring solve our problems when they don't actually know us or how we live?

Q: Another reality shown in the film, which contrasts with the usual clichés, is the depiction of ethnicities. Can you discuss this?

Ladj Ly: Yes, because that is how things are. People from everywhere hanging out together. Between Chris - a white racist cop - and 'The Mayor' - a black neighborhood figure - things are also complex: they hate each other but have little "arrangements" because they need each other. The cops are often obliged to make compromises with the residents, or else it would be permanent war.

Q: Your direction also goes against what's expected - you avoid video promo editing, the stereotypical hip-hop music. Was it important for you to let the narrative and the shots speak for themselves?

Ladj Ly: I wanted the first forty minutes of the film to be a calm immersion into the neighborhood. I wanted to bring the audience into my world first, before going into the action. It's like you're strolling along, familiarising yourselves with the characters and the fabric of the neighborhood. Indeed, the music is more electro than hip-hop. Even the way they speak, I wanted to avoid all the predictable suburb-film clichés.

Q: The title refers to Victor Hugo, and the film begins with French flags during the night following the World Cup victory. Did you want to make a film not only about the suburbs, but about France too?

Ladj Ly: I'm French. At times we have been told that perhaps we weren't French, but we've always felt French. I'm a little older than the characters of the film, and the 12th of July, 1998 marked me for life. I remember it to this day - I was 18 and it was magical!

Football managed to unite us: no more skin colour, no more social classes, we were simply French. We felt that again during the last World Cup, as if only football had the power to bring us together. It's a pity there is no other bond for the people but at the same time, those are incredible moments to experience, and to film. The film starts with this, before shifting back to the bleaker reality of daily life, where each person lives their lives according to skin colour, religion, social class.

Les Misérables Movie Details 🎥


Directed by

Ladj Ly

Writing Credits

Ladj Ly

Alexis Manenti

Giordano Gederlini

Starring

Damien Bonnard

Alexis Manenti

Marine Sainsily

Djebril Zonga

Mousba Harb

Jeanne Balibar

Issa Perica

Djeneba Diallo

Amara Ly

Djibril Ly

Seydie Ly

Al-Hassan Ly

Steve Tientcheu

Omar Soumare

Almamy Kanouté

Nizar Ben Fatma

Raymond Lopez

Luciano Lopez

Jaihson Lopez

Lucas Omiri

Sana Joachaim

Abiatou Château

Sofia Lesaffre

Fodjé Sissoko

Cinematography by

Julien Poupard

Categories: Oscars, Oscar Academy Award Nominee, Golden Globes, Golden Globe Nominee, EFA, European Film Award Winner

Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Country: France

Les Misérables Official Trailer



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