On the 8th of October 2019, ‘Les Misérables’ will open the 46th edition of Film Fest Gent. Ladj Ly’s feature film directorial debut was applauded at its premiere in Cannes where it also received the Jury Prize.
‘Les Misérables’ has borrowed not only its title from Victor Hugo’s novel of hardship but also the feelings of anger and abandonment towards those in charge and the physical setting of the Parisian suburb, Montfermeil. The story is set in 2018 and documents 24 hours in the lives of Montfermeil locals.
The story takes off with policeman Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) joining Montfermeil’s Anti-Crime Squad. Working alongside his experienced colleagues, Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djibril Zonga), he’s a firsthand witness to rising tensions between local gangs. One day the three cops are overrun in the course of an arrest, an incident that is filmed by a drone.
This footage now threatens to expose the harsh reality of daily life in the banlieues. Based on Ly’s 2017 short film of the same name, ‘Les Misérables’ reflects on the French riots of 2005 and the difficult coexistence of police and residents in impoverished areas.
Ladj Ly has long been interested in showing the reality of life in Montfermeil, the director’s hometown. In ‘Les Misérables’, he showcases different ethnic, racial and social groups of the suburb through an objective camera lens. While no one is guiltless, no one is judged harshly. This aim for objectivity, to show and not judge, reveals Ly’s background as a documentary maker.
Film Fest Gent’s programme director, Wim De Witte, speaks highly of the opening film: “‘Les Misérables is first and foremost a very powerful film that touches on important and relevant topics, like radicalisation. ‘Les Misérables’ is one out of 10-12 films on our programme that offers a powerful and multifaceted portrayal of radicalisation in our own age. But what makes Ly’s film stand out is the nuance it promotes. This is not a good-versus-bad tale. Neither party is pulled forward or pulled down: the nuance applies to both parties.”
‘Les Misérables’ was produced by SRAB Films and co-produced by Rectangle Productions and Lyly Films. Paradiso Filmed Entertainment will function as the Belgian distributor, releasing the film in Belgian cinemas from November 20th onward.
Film Fest Gent opens on October 8th with the screening of ‘Les Misérables’.