A2 FILM STUDIES – SECTION A – URBAN STORIES: POWER, POVERTY & CONFLICT CASE STUDY – FOCUS FILM 1 La Haine (1995) Dir: Mathieu Kassovitz Cast: Vincent Cassel Vinz Said Taghmaoui Sayid Hubert Koundé Hubert Synopsis The film follows three young men and their time spent in the French suburban "ghetto," over a span of twenty-four hours. Vinz, a Jew, Saïd, an Arab, and Hubert, a black boxer, have grown up in these Frenchsuburbs where high levels of diversity coupled with the racist and oppressive police forcehave raised tensions to a critical breaking point. During the riots that took place a nightbefore, a police officer lost his handgun in the ensuing madness, only to leave it for Vinz tofind. Now, with a newfound means to gain the respect he deserves, Vinz vows to kill a cop ifhis friend Abdel dies in the hospital, due the beating he received while in police custodyCharactersThinking about the characters involved can be a good way to begin to understand any film. In La Hainewe have three main characters: the friends: Sayid Vinz HubertTheir ethnic origins are made clear to us: Sayid is an Arab African-French (Beur) Vinz has a Jewish background Hubert is a Black African-French
To them, drawn together by their shared youth culture, these differences seem unimportant; but eachcharacter is shown to be very aware of the ways in which others in France might look at his ethnicity.For example, because he is ‘white’, it is Vinz how is given the task of attempting to gain entry to themiddle-class block of flats where they hope to meet ‘Asterix’ / ‘Snoopy’We could also consider the role each character is given within the narrative. We may notice, for example,that after the contextualisation of the documentary footage the film opens with Sayid contemplating thepolice in a very visually distinctive way and that we end the film in a somewhat similar manner.Vinz, of course, is strongly linked in plot terms to the key prop of the handgun: the object that is dangerousin that it is likely to “go off” or explode with deadly consequences. The scenes in which we see Vinz linkhim to this object, not only physically in that he possesses it but also emotionally in that he displays himselfas a ‘loose cannon’, as someone who could explode into violence.Hubert is the most carefully delineated character: we see him alone in his bedroom and at home with hismother, for instance, in scenes that do not move the plot forward but which increase our understanding ofhis character and intensify our sense of identification with him. How would you differentiate the three central characters? Make sure you can refer to specific scenes in order to illustrate your case and compare your ideas with other people, if possible. (In undertaking this task it is very important to remember that film is a visual medium and may ‘show’ us features of an individual character’s make-up through performance and/or carefully constructed shots rather than simply ‘telling’ us in the use of dialogue) Which one (if any) is the central ‘hero’? o How would you justify your choice? What role does Samir, the Beur police officer, play in the film? Are there any other minor characters who serve to tell us more about each character? Why has the older character in the scene in the toilets been included in the film?
Key ScenesIn discussing the characters in the film you will notice how you need to be able to refer in detail to specificscenes in order to make your case for seeing Sayid, Vinz and Hubert in particular ways. This knowledge ofthe finer points of any film construction is important when you come to write about this film or any otherfilm. You need to be able to identify ways in which elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography, editingand sound, and the structure of the narrative, create meaning and generate audience responses.It is always important to analyse the opening to a film since this is usually particularly helpful inidentifying key themes and ideas for the whole film. Here, the first scenes are played out to the soundtrack of Bob Marley’s Burnin’ and Lootin’, suggesting a particular way of seeing the documentary footage. Marley is strongly associated with radical politics and a willingness to confront state authorities that are seen both within the music and the associated youth culture as being repressive. As a result the actions of the rioters seem to receive a form of endorsement that might not have been achieved had a different choice of musical accompaniment been made. “This morning I woke up in a curfew; O God, I was a prisoner, too – yeah! Could not recognise the faces standing over me; They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!”A full analysis of the film’s opening would involve considering the sequence of shots found here in muchgreater detail and all the time in relation to both dialogue and music. Please refer to your Close Analysis Booklet for an in-depth analysis of the opening sequence!
Key ScenesIt is important to ground your understanding of the film in this sort of detailed exploration of individualscenes. We will therefore undertake careful critical analyses of each of the following scenes: The TV news crew attempting to interview Sayid, Vinz and Hubert about the previous night’s riots when they literally ‘look down on’ the three friends in a space that resembles a bear pit or zoo enclosure Hubert in his bedroom with iconic images of rebellious black Americans in the background (the boxer Muhammad Ali, and African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving a Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics The police and local council authorities attempting to force young people, including Sayid, Vinz & Hubert, from the rooftop of one of the tower blocks The three main characters sitting in a children’s play area filmed and edited in such a way as to convey the sense of utter boredom being experienced The DJ using his decks to blast out anti-police messages in a scene which is filmed and edited to convey an experience of momentary freedom, escape or release The three central characters experiencing a surreal (but notice, heavily historically grounded) storytelling experience with an older man in a Parisian toilet The two experienced plain-clothes policemen ‘questioning’ Sayid and Hubert while a younger trainee office looks on The scene at the late-night exhibition in a high-class area gallery at which the class divide becomes apparent The friends being confronted by a skin head gang (raising, as in the scene with the older man in the toilet, the issue of fascism) The final dramatic scene in which there is a critical change to the story that has been retold several times, so that it becomes a ‘society’ that is ‘falling’ Messages and ValuesLa Haine was based on an actual event: the death of an 18 year old Black youth shot during interrogationby the police in 1992. This context gives the central concern for the film, but the riots and the violentconfrontation between the police and young people is placed within a much wider social context.
Multiculturalism and ethnicity within modern French society is clearly explored. Forexample: Hubert’s poster are of Muhammad Ali and the ‘black power’ salute given at the 1968 Olympics The Wailers’ song Burnin’ and Lootin’ links directly to ideas of black uprisingsMore positively, the three friends are of mixed ethnicity, and within youthculture the separate ethnicities are shown as evolving into a vibrant hybridcultural fusion. There is a focus on the music, dance styles and street slang (‘verlan’) of this contemporarypopular culture. A strong sense of the nature of the working-class experience is given, for example: Through the location shooting among the bleak, stark walls and tower blocks of the estate and the deliberate choice of black and white film stock In addition, by transporting the friends into central Paris strong contrasts are able to be given with the middle-class experience found there. This also places the problem firmly within the heart of French society rather than leaving it as a peripheral issue out in the ‘projects’.
Racism is shown, most obviously in the scenes with the skinhead gang. “Doing your good deed? There are good pigs...but the only good skin-head is a dead skin-head! Do it!” Youth Unemployment is a constant feature of the ‘social backdrop’: neither Sayid nor Vinz not Hubert have a job. The first half of La Haine is spent in the Projects. Most of these sequences show the characters wasting time with nothing to do. Kassovitz expertly depicts the drudgery of everyday life in the project – nothing to do but sit around. With no productive way of occupying their minds the trio quickly resort to criminal activity to help pass the time. Police Brutality is clearly an issue though the role of Samir and the presence of black police officers within the mise-en-scene of several scenes suggest this is not a simple and clear-cut matter.The trio are arrested in Paris and takenback to a Police station so a newrecruit can be trained in torture.Not all Police are represented this wayhowever. Samir, a Beur like Sayid,treats the trio with respect and evenoffers to help Hubert with a grant for anew gym.
Social Exclusion, as shown on the tower block rooftop, in the art gallery, and in the empty high- tech shopping mall, would seem to be creating an ‘underclass’. An inevitable product of that, according to the film would seem to be rebellion and social conflict. Throughout the film the mise-en-scene and cinematography emphasise the isolation felt by the characters. When in Paris centre we do not see the tourists or expanding population of this urban environment. The trio are isolated due to their class, race, ethnicity and position in the world. They do not fit in or belong and the cinematography reflects this.
Compile a list of scenes that focus on issues of race List your own points regarding ways in which working-class life (maybe in relation to or in comparison to the middle-class experience) is portrayed List features of contemporary youth culture as shown in the film
Immigration & France In the history or historiography of France, little attention has been paid to the impact and influence of immigrants on the development of the French nation. This differs greatly from Americas construction of its own historical development which explicitly acknowledges the role of immigrant communities. It was only really in the 1980s that French historians really began to look seriously at the question of the influence of immigration. This neglect is all the more surprising when one considers that, over the last two hundred years, France has received more immigrants than any other European country. By 1930 in fact, France had a higher percentage of foreigners in its population than the United States.
FRANCE • President: François Mitterrand (1981 – 1995) • Population: 57,840,445 • Paris Population: 9,514,000 • Religions: – Roman Catholic 90% – Protestant 2% – Jewish 1% – Muslim (North African workers) 1% – unaffiliated 6% – National Unemployment: 10.1 % • Unemployment in Paris “Immigration Ghetto’s”: 20 – 40%Changing FacesPost WWII France was in dire need of workers to catch up with other industrialised nations. At first,immigrants came mostly from Italy and Spain. Then they came from North African countries, WesternAfrican countries and Portugal.In the 1960’s an economic crisis hit the country resulting in a rise in unemployment and lack of jobs.As a result, in 1974 the Government started limiting immigration and the influx of immigrants steadilydropped to 74,000 per year in 1997. This figure read 200,000 + during the early 1980’s.By the end of 1994, there were about 5 million people of Muslim descent living in France.Crux of the ProblemIt is currently estimated that 40 percent of the French population descends from these different waves ofmigrations, making France the most ethnically diverse country in Europe.Immigrants from other European countries have had an easier time blending in (race and religion beingkey), while “non-European” groups have tended to assimilate at a slower pace.
Difficult IntegrationBecause of the difficulty integrating into French society, many young males of African and Arab descentwork for lowest wages and often live in ghettos where crime is rampant.“Western Europe society has not managed to integrate second – or third-generation immigrants,” saidScott Atran, Director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and professor ofpsychology at the University of Michigan.France has a chronic problem of not knowing how to shrug off the “ossified economic and politicalstructure” that rules the country, he added. French policy towards immigrants has always been one of ‘assimilation’ with people being expected to take on French cultural norms and values White-European immigrants find it a lot easier to assimilate to French society. Possible explanations for this: White-European immigrants share the same race, cultures and in most cases the same religions African immigrants mostly practice Islam and Christian religions
THE FRENCH MASSACRE AT SETIF (ALGERIA) How the French celebrated VE-Day in 1945 Despite the fact that most of the fighting against the Axis forces and Vichy France in North Africa had been conducted with honour and dispatch by Algerian troops the French decided to celebrate the victory of the Allies (a small part of who were French) by committing an act of barbarism and genocide that echoes to this day. In one weekend of violence they murdered 45,000 Algerians. Peaceful demonstrations had been taking place across Algeria for some months against the unfair treatment of indigenous Algerians (an oft-mentioned example was the reservation of bread for Europeans, the others only having the right to barley) and 15,000 people had protested in the streets of Mostaganem earlier without any incidents.On May 8, 1945, a day chosen by the allies to celebrate their victory over Nazi Germany,thousands of Algerians gathered near the Abou Dher El-Ghafari mosque in Setif for a peacefulmarch - for which the sous-prefet had given permission. It was a market day.At 9am, led by a young scout Saal Bouzid, whose name had been drawn for the honour ofcarrying the national flag, the demonstrators set off. A few minutes later the crowd, chanting‘vive l’independance’ and other nationalist slogans, came under fire from troops commanded byGeneral Duval and brought in from Constantine.Saal Bouzid fell dead, becoming a national martyr. The scene soon turned into a massacre - thestreets and houses being littered with dead bodies. Witnesses claim terrible scenes, thatlegionnaires seized babies by their feet and dashed their heads against rocks, that pregnantmothers were disembowelled, that soldiers dropped grenades down chimneys to kill theoccupants of homes, that mourners were machine gunned while taking the dead to thecemetery.A public record states that the European inhabitants were so frightened by the events that theyasked that all those responsible for the protest movement should be shot. The carnage spreadand, during the days that followed, some 45,000 Algerians were killed. Villages were shelled byartillery and remote hamlets were bombed with aircraft.
A Colonel in charge of burials being criticized for slowness told another officer ‘You are killing them faster than I can bury them.’ These incidents led to the upsurge of the PPA and ultimately, 17 years later to the country’s independence. In the retaliatory violence that immediately followed 104 Europeans were assassinated, but by the end several thousands were to die. These incidents were particularly hard for Algerians who had fought the Nazis alongside the French forces, some of whom came home to find that their families had been decimated by the troops of General de Gaulle. Led by the FLN (the national liberation front) the independence struggle caused France to draft in thousands of troops. In spite of opposition by Europeans living in the country a cease-fire was agreed to in March 1962. An extremist wing of the Army, the OAS, expanded its campaign of murder, torture and destruction, carrying on despite the cease-fire. Survivors say that to this day France as a colonial power ‘has not had the courage to recognize its crimes. carried out in its former colonies and that it pretends to be a champion of human rights’. Ending the liberation war, the Evian Agreement declared that extremist French soldiers (both regular, OAS and pieds noir irregulars, would not be prosecuted for crimes carried out in Algeria. Both Chirac and Le Pen served in Algeria in the French Army.• After World War II many countries under French control sought independence – this struggle was particularly bitter in Algeria and Vietnam• On VE day (Sept. 8th 1945) 4000 Algerians held a peaceful protest demanding Independence from the French• This protest led to widespread disturbances and killings in and around the Algerian town of Setif • The massacre is the inspiration for the film “The Battle of Algiers (1967) “ • On May 8th 1945 the French authorities opened fire on Algerian protestors • The police brutality led to reprisals and attacks were carried out on French farmers and French ‘colons’ (Colonials) • After five days of violence the French authorities carried out a series of reprisal attacks – (this army contained many Senegalese soldiers)• The massacre lasted an entire weekend and resulted in thousands of deaths
The following actions were sanctioned by the French State: • Executions of rioters / protestors • Muslim Villages bombed by French Air Craft • A cruiser named Duguay –Trouin bombed a city called ‘Kerrata’ from the Gulf of Bougie • Paid vigilantes known as Pied-noir (Black feet) lynched villagers and prisoners • Muslims who refused to wear white arm bands (required by the French Army) were shot dead • Official death tolls range from 1,200 (French) to 45,000 (Algerian) (Historians place the figure at approx. 6000) • These events sparked the Algerian – French war which lasted from 1945 until 1962 when Algeria was finally granted independence • After the war all Pied-noir and Algerian members of the French army were repatriated to France • The Algerians were put in Internment camps whilst the Pied Noir went free and were given land • Once released, Algerian’s were forced in to Shanty towns away from the middle class cities • This is where Les Banlieues were later built
• France has a long association with the Jewish community• For over 2000 years Jewish communities have been found in France• As of 2010 there are believed to be between 483,000 & 500,000 Jews living in France• This number makes up only 1% of the entire French population• Ever since Jew’s first settled in France they have been persecuted and faced Anti-Semitism – often state sponsored – especially during the 20th Century• At the beginning of the 20th Century Anti-Semitism was actively encouraged by Anti-Republican political groups, the Catholic Church, the Army, Civil Service and the Judiciary of France• People believed the Jew’s could never be properly integrated in to a French Christian society and therefore were seen as potential traitors• After Germany’s occupation of France in 1939 the country was split in two • German Controlled • Vichy controlled• Over 150,000 Jews sought refuge in Vichy but were subjected to fierce discrimination similar to that practiced by the Nazi’s • Jewish citizens were rounded up and held in train stations and stadia before being transported to Auschwitz • During World War II the Vichy government exported 75,721 Jews to Nazi death camps • Of these, only 2000 survived • It was not until the retirement of French president Francois Mitterrand (whom had been decorated by Petain himself) in 1994 that the country was able to face up to its role in the massacre of the Jews.• Mitterrand claimed that it would cause to much ‘Civil Unrest’ if the issue was given a public forum
• Over the years feelings of resentment, anger and denial built up, before exploding in the 1980’s and 1990’s in the form of violent riots• Between the years of there have been several major riots in the city of Paris What does this suggest to you about French Society and culture? This continual cycle of violence indicates that there is a deep lying problem in French society – especially among the immigrant / working classes