Contemporary Films with the Smart Treatment

Contemporary French cinema is characterized by critic and historian Michel Marie as “a cinema of authors.” A cinema that is not ashamed to point out in its genesis the direct influence of Nouvelle Vague and that “finally integrates the French colonial past in some way”. This text is a chapter of the book by Mauro Baptista and Fernando Mascarello on contemporary world cinema. Michel Marie gives a picture of what is commonly referred to in Europe as the ‘French cultural exception’. A visit to makes the film perfect.

The Expression

This expression was coined in France in the 1990s, after an intense debate in the artistic field, around the protection of the national audiovisual product. During the period of signature of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In 1993, in the so-called Uruguay Round negotiations, the artistic milieu demands that the French government favorably position itself on the exclusion of works considered of cultural and identity value from the rules of international free trade. The French film industry opposes what it calls “the attempt to transform national production into an ordinary commodity in trade between nations.”

The Precise Options

It is precisely in the midst of these discussions that a new generation of filmmakers, many from FEMIS (European Foundation for Les Metiers de l’Image et du Son ), begin to produce their first feature films. These new filmmakers call for a “return to author cinema,” generously broadening the author’s view of issues closely linked to contemporary French society in its cultural and political diversity. In this new generation that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s from this discussion of culture fostered by the GATT accords, there is a group that has raised the flag for the making of films aimed at the daily life of “French immigrants”. These films are today often made by French immigrants.

Pragmatism for You

By usual pragmatism in film criticism, a label was given for these new films then called “banlieue movies” or “banlieue cinema.” We could translate this denomination as “cinema over the suburbs”.

Since 1995 this cinema has been refining and broadening its horizon to more subtle sociopolitical themes such as the place of the new generations of “French of foreign origin” in the socio-cultural development of France. I take as a starting point, for a discussion of this issue, the short filmography of a Franco Tunisian filmmaker, who spent his childhood in one of these popular neighborhoods, the so-called cités, but in southern France.

  • The choice of this author is an attempt to displace the problem of this “immigrant” cinema out of Paris, as Abdellatif Kechiche has made films where the cites of Paris are contemplated as well as those of southern France, which he particularly knew.

Abdelatif Kechiche treats in his films, realistically or allegorically, political issues as delicate as those of immigration and contemporary social integration of the French colonial past. Reading Michel Marie’s text between the lines gives us some clues as to how to approach this new French ‘author cinema’, but we prefer the images and articles around Kechiche to treat this work as equally integral to the so-called ‘French cultural exception’.

A heritage that no longer belongs to the “French Colonial Empire”, but also does not belong to the cultured immigrant, who assimilated the culture of the “Empire”, but has not lost its “tribal” marks that identify it in the social game of everyday life.