THE MAY 11 SCREENING IS PART OF THE RATED Y SERIES. BOTH SCREENINGS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A FILMMAKER Q+A.
NO MEMBERSHIP REQUIRED. OPEN TO YOUTH UNDER 18.
From its bravura opening POV shot, swooping like a bird of prey over an urban nightscape, Olivier Babinet’s film announces itself with a grand flourish. Swagger, indeed!
The Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois garnered international attention after the violence and rioting of 2005, but for kids growing up there, it is home. Director Babinet spent more than three years working with a dozen residents, posing questions about family and relationships, hopes and dreams. Although one painfully shy girl can barely speak her name out loud, others such as Régis Marvin Merveille N’Kissi Moggzi are bold as brass, talking fashion and soap opera plots.
The universal melds with the specific. On the playground, the kids choose teams for a game of soccer. The agonized look of those waiting their turn to be picked, especially one chubby little guy with enormous teeth, thick glasses, and an expression that alternates between hope and despair, will be familiar to anyone. In other sections, the very French aspect becomes clear, as the residents talk about the differences between class and race. “Blacks and Arabs are not treated the same as the French,” notes one young interviewee. The film is an interesting companion to Alice Diop’s Vers la tendresse (Towards Tenderness) (also playing at DOXA this year, see page 65), which examines more adult themes, but from a similar perspective of race and socioeconomic privilege. (Coincidentally enough, the housing project in Swagger is the same one that Alice Diop grew up in.)
A box office sensation in France, Babinet’s vivid documentary is bursting with life, and fantasy-fueled mise en scène, but the underlying sadness that colours so much of these young lives curls darkly at the edges. While a little girl reads Heidi in her bed, outside young men are shouting, “They’re coming! The cops!” Sirens paint the air in stippled bands of red and blue. Inside, one girl comforts another with a gentle pat, “Go to sleep,” she says, “You have school tomorrow.” -DW