Sun | Nov 17, 2019

‘Swagger’ kicks off Francophone Film Festival

Published:Friday | November 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Marie-Noelle Bronut, director of Alliance Francaise de la Jamaique, addresses the audience at the screening and opening of Francophone Film Festival.
French Ambassador to Jamaica Denys Wibaux (right) shares a moment with Stefano Gilli of the EU.

In a fascinating mix of documentary and fiction, director and screenplay writer Olivier Babinet takes us on a journey of poverty, love, friendships, religion, drugs and politics from the perspectives of 11 children, including teenagers of varied backgrounds.

Set in some of France's underprivileged housing pro-jects, the documentary, Swagger, begins with a brief but impactful statement on the former dwellers of Allunay - they are the French stock. As the documentary progresses, only few of the current residents have ever seen or heard of these blue-eyed French stocks.

The language of Swagger, as expected, is French, but boldly written subtitles help non-speakers of the language to follow with ease. For instance, the Roma, or Romanian, Naila Hanafi's witty theory on Mickey Mouse: "The speaking large mouse who has teamed up with the team called Barbie dolls to take over the world."

Likewise, the African descendant Regis Marvin Merville N'Kissi Moggzi, an ambitious prospective fashion connoisseur; his lighthearted banter was tho-roughly enjoyed. Because of the clarity of the subtitles, there was an appreciation for his desire to set himself apart from his peers through his attire for school.


Class and brilliance


From taking the audience to the lofty position of a bird's eye view of the projects to a Bollywood-style musical with the Indian Paul Turgot, the director showed class and brilliance. He takes his creativity a notch higher when the children voice their thoughts on slavery and the invasion of police on their housing projects. Babinet juxtaposed modernity - the teenagers in a metal shop wearing masks and jumpers of same colours - with voiceover to reinforce slavery, of then and now. Also, the use of police in space crafts converging on the buildings was just magical from a cinemagraphy perspective.

Not surprisingly, when the one hour and twenty-four minutes documentary concluded, the audience was impressed. Host of the screening Denys Wibaux, ambassador of France to Jamaica, shared his thoughts.

"It's a very interesting movie because it speaks of today's France's social reality in the suburbs of Paris where we have these communities of Africa, the North African culture. We see how these people struggle to find their space in France, and the struggle with life. We also see how these young people are full of hope. It is very interesting from a cinemagraphy point of view. It sort of blurs the line between the documentary and fiction, and that's what makes it fascinating. I really like it."

French lecturer at Shortwood Teachers' College, Leonie Wallace, described it as a concept film. "I enjoyed it because I use to live in France, so I know these types of children and what goes on in their mind. I thought it was very interesting to hear what they think. I find it a bit pessimistic, though."

The screening of Swagger was held on Tuesday at the French Embassy, and served as the precursor for the Francophone Film Festival, scheduled for November 14 - 24, 2018.