La haine (1995)

La haine (1995) — The early 1990s brought about a whole bunch of movies set in the ghetto, the hood, the projects, etc.  However, the problems of social marginalization are hardly uniquely American phenomena.  France has problems too.  America has ghettos, France has banlieues.  The film takes place just after a major riot that was inspired by police brutality is the arrest of Abdell, a friend of the main characters.  Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, and Saïd Taghmaoui star as Vinz, Hubert, and Saïd (how they came up with the character names I’ll never know).  As minority residents (Jewish, black, & Middle Eastern) of a low-income area they’re all feeling pretty disenfrachised but all react in different ways.  Hubert just wants to get out while Vinz dreams of retribution against the cops (and remains willfully ignorant to the fact that there are good cops too [while mostly antiauthoritarian in tone, the film does have some good cop characters amidst the many bad and does take the position that like any group cops have good and bad among their ranks]).  Things get interesting when Vinz finds a gun lost by a police officer during the riots.  Director Mathieu Kassovitz (who you might recognize as Nino from Amélie or the mugger with the silly hat in The Fifth Element) shot the film expertly in black and white and the images of the film stay with you after viewing.  Despite being in a different country, there isn’t too much of a culture barrier.  The problems illustrated by the movie were real in 1995 when it was made and continue to be real, as evidenced by the riots in 2005.  Kassovitz and then-Minister-of-the-Interior (now President) Nicolas Zarkozy had something of a war of words about the rioters.  Obviously I’m not French (though I am very slowly learning the language) but this films makes you think about issues like economic marginalization and social disenfranchisement.  It’s a thoughtful movie and well worth seeing.

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