Looking at the pictures of the recent rioting in France, I began to feel like I had seen this somewhere before. At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but as I looked through more pictures and more articles I realized that it looked excatly like the opening scenes of the movie La Haine (Hate)
For those of you who remember, it has been nearly ten years since the then little known French film was released. Brought over to America by the plane-obsessed Jodie Foster, it was shown in mostly art houses and independent theaters. While it wasn't a mainstream film, it did get a lot of notice and became an underground classic among art house geeks, hip hoppers and the intelligentsia alike.
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (the love interest in Amelie), the story follows a day in the life of three young men living in les banlieues, which, quite literally, are the suburbs of Paris. See, unlike in the states where we consider the inner cities to be the ghetto, in France, the poor were pushed out into government created housing (Projects) back during Louis the XIV or XV. And that's where they've been ever since.
Note:When they are in the States, It's interesting to see a Parisian's reaction when you tell them you live in the suburbs. Their face twists into a look of horror.
At any rate, these three young men come from very different backgrounds: Said who is Arab, Hubert who is Black and Vinz who is Jewish. The movie takes place the day after a huge riot. Everything is in shambles, including the Hubert's boxing gym, the one which he opened in order to keep young people out of trouble and off the streets. He also uses boxing as a way of maintaining his anger, an anger they all feel. They each have their own way of expressing it.
The film is a turbulent ride in which you see hopes rising up, only to be crushed. The picture opens up with this quote:
Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper?
On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good.
How you fall doesn't matter. It's how you land.
From there you are thrust into a dismal world that is both literally and figuratively black and white. One where there is comedy in tragedy and vice versa. A world where everyone is falling, never sure how exactly they will land.
If you get a chance, I really urge you to go see this movie. Not only is it a fantastic film, but it has an amazing soundtrack that features MC Solaar, IAM, and various other French rappers. (If I'm not mistaken, there's a French cover of N.W.A. “Fuck Tha Police”)
If you happen to be into French rap or you like what you hear, you should also check out Doc Gyneco.