Inspired by the 2005 riots in Paris, LES MISÉRABLES – directed by Ladj Ly – follows Stéphane (Damien Bonnard), a recent transplant to the impoverished suburb of Montfermeil, as he joins the local anti-crime squad.
Ladj Ly’s politically-charged feature debut is inspired by the filmmaker’s own experiences as the son of a Malian immigrant.
Ly grew up in the harshness of the banlieues, in a commune east of Paris, called Montfermeil. Ly, who still lives there, said his Montfermeil isn’t all that different from Victor Hugo’s, whose 1862 novel is a source of inspiration.
“Hugo’s time was a different era, but poverty and social misery remain in the area. I could have just taken the book and made it contemporary, but with my film, I wanted to portray how we live in these very policed ghettos today, and the consistent threats of violence we face.”
As IndieWire reports, It’s a film that’s at least 15 years in the making, with roots that stretch back to Ly’s activist teenage years. Ly was inspired by the violent 2005 Paris riots, which involved youth of African descent, in a three-week uprising stoked by increased unemployment, poor housing conditions, and routine harassment at the hands of the police.
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