Race, Ethnicity, and Power in Contemporary French Cinema

FRIT-F651 — Fall 2019

Student filming a scene.
Brett Bowles
LI W305-C
Days and Times
4:00P-6:00P R
Course Description

Studies in French Cinema

Taking an interdisciplinary perspective from postcolonial studies and film studies, this course will examine the representation of race and ethnicity in French cinema as a contested field of cultural production and of sociopolitical discourse. To what degree do film and other audio-visual mass media (television, internet, social media) serve both to reify and to contest institutional power structures and administrative practices inherited from the colonial period, as well as deeply ingrained modes of imagining racial and ethnic difference as part of or in contradistinction to French national identity?

How have the general public and critics responded to these conflicting representations, and what do those responses tell us about the state of French democracy in the twenty-first century? To what degree does the image of race relations on screen distort social and political reality, particularly state policy with regard to minorities in fields such as housing, employment, immigration, and incarceration? Does French cinema by white metropolitan directors express nostalgia for the colonial period?

To answer these questions, the course will juxtapose various genres (commercial melodramas and comedies vs. non-commercial documentaries and docu-dramas); perspectives (films by Sub-Saharan African and North-African directors vs. white French directors); themes relevant to different demographic groups (legal and clandestine migration from Africa and other parts of the world to France; the hybrid cultural identities of Muslims born in France with family ties to the Maghreb; the role that gender and class play in relation to race and ethnicity).

Films will include some configuration of the following:

  • Les Statues meurent aussi / Statues Also Die (Resnais & Marker, 1953)
  • Afrique sur Seine / Africa on the Seine (Soumanou-Vieyra, 1955)
  • Octobre à Paris / October in Paris (Panijel, 1962)
  • La Noire de / Black Girl (Sembène, 1966)
  • Vivre au paradis / Living in Paradise (Guerdjou, 1998)
  • Chaos (Serreau, 2001)
  • Inch’Allah Dimanche (Benguigui, 2001)
  • L’Afrance / African France (Gomis, 2001)
  • La Blessure / The Wound (Klotz, 2004)
  • La Graine et le mulet / The Secret of the Grain (Kechiche, 2007)
  • La Journée de la jupe / Skirt Day (Lilienfeld, 2008)
  • Un Prophète / A Prophet (Audiard, 2009)
  • White Material (Denis, 2009)
  • Les Intouchables / The Untouchables (Nakache & Toledano, 2011)
  • Paris mon paradis / Paris My Paradise (Yaméogo, 2011)
  • Ici on noie les Algériens / Here We Drown Algerians (Adi, 2011)
  • Vol spécial / Special Flight (2011, Melgar)
  • Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu ? / Serial Weddings (Chauveron, 2014)
  • Je Suis Charlie (Leconte, 2015)
  • Je ne suis pas Charlie (Blumenthal & Kleinfeld, 2015)
  • Made in France (Boukhrief, 2015)
  • Dheepan (Audiard, 2016)

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details