In director Patric Jean's film, residents of French suburban slums ('la banlieue') tell their stories of exclusion and discrimination by employers and the legal and prison systems which prevent them from participating in French society and 'normal' life. As they see it, they are paralyzed by marginalization, while the rest of society enjoys economic prosperity and consumerism. It is a downward spiral with no way out; the documentary exposes their plight and illustrates the ways in which government and society maintain these circumstances.
The documentary exposes the ways slum dwellers are marginalized. Even those lucky and ambitious enough to have completed a university education face an arduous struggle when trying to find work. Unemployment and lack of other options leads to frustration, depression, and ultimately to violent and antisocial behavior, which in turn makes success even less likely. With no job and no money, there is little left to lose, which leads to dangerous situations, both in and outside of the slums.
When factories in France shut down during the recession of the 1970s, the suburbs were abandoned by those who could afford to do so. Those who remained formed an underclass of post-WWII immigrants from southern Europe, Asia and especially North Africa. The documentary concludes that the French government has ultimately failed to maintain acceptable living conditions in the suburban slums.
A society of equal rights, the ideal of European democracy, is questioned in the film. Images of luxurious shopping centers, beautiful architecture and modern museums stand in stark contrast to the city's other face, the suburban slums. Though the film was made in France, similar situations exist in other democratic societies, a fact that Patric Jean emphasizes by allowing the residents featured to remain anonymous. This is not a local problem, but a global one.
About the filmmaker
Patric Jean is a Belgian documentary filmmaker, born in 1968 in Borinage. About his hometown, he made the documentary "Les enfants du Borinage". In his films Patric Jean often explores the social consequences of prolonged economic underdevelopment. A recurring strongpoint is his ability to inspire confidence into his film subjects, thereby lending a voice to their taciturn poverty.
Buy the DVD
You can buy the DVD or order the film for broadcast or theatrical release through the following links:
- Centre Video Bruxelles