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Filmmaker Ladj Ly Addresses Systemic Issues in France at TIFF Industry Conference

Date: 2023-09-15

Filmmaker Ladj Ly Addresses Systemic Issues in France at TIFF Industry Conference

The esteemed filmmaker called out the societal issues plaguing France, stating the troubling circumstance where “the police have a complete free pass to kill Blacks and Arabs.” By: Theng Min Yee

At the recent Visionaries event during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Industry Conference, acclaimed filmmaker Ladj Ly shared candid insights into the pressing need for change in France. Ly emphasised a lack of political will to instigate change is hindering progress in the country.

This summer saw France grappling with renewed unrest following the fatal shooting of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old of North African descent, by police officer Florian Menesplier in June.

Ly pointed out that any semblance of change currently occurring in France is unfortunately taking a regressive trajectory. He highlighted a troubling surge in cases of police brutality, noting that this issue has now extended beyond inner-city communities to impact the entire nation. Ly drew attention to the Gilet Jaunes movement, which encountered similar police violence to what marginalised communities have endured for years.

The filmmaker expressed grave concern, stating, "The police have a complete free pass to kill Blacks and Arabs." He underscored the alarming frequency of police brutality incidents, with tragic consequences for young individuals. Ly also observed a concerning shift in power dynamics, asserting that police unions seem to wield more influence than the government.

Ly also criticised French President Emmanuel Macron for failing to deliver on promises to improve conditions in impoverished inner-city areas. He pointed to a housing bill that was swiftly discarded by Macron's government as evidence of the administration's lack of commitment to meaningful change.

Ly's latest work, Les Indesirables, had its world premiere at TIFF, presenting a narrative set in an underprivileged Parisian suburb. The film follows a doctor thrust into the role of interim mayor, inadvertently becoming a proponent of gentrification in his community.

Looking ahead, Ly shared plans for a third instalment in his series of films set in Parisian suburbs, this time set in the 1990s. He expressed a personal connection to continuing these stories, aiming to chronicle three decades of life in different territories.

Ly's film Les Indesirables is being handled internationally by Goodfellas, with CAA Media Finance representing North America. The filmmaker also highlighted the challenges of securing distribution for films addressing police violence, citing his 2005 documentary 365 Days In Clichy Montfermeil. Despite initial struggles, Ly's persistence paid off when the film was eventually picked up by Canal+ 15 years later, following the success of Les Miserables.

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