‘Is it worth seeing?’ The question becomes a little bit complicated when it refers to films that run for no longer than twenty minutes. I would still dare, even on a chronometer, to say that French is a positive experience.
Said French, or by its more evocative original name, Le Bleau blanc rouge de mes cheveaux, offers a tiny universe in less than half an hour. Seyna, played by Grace Seri, is a teenager of Cameroonian heritage enchanted by France and its history and politics. She thrives at school and in French society, but her situation becomes tense when her father opposes her attempts to gain French citizenship.
The extremely expressive protagonist makes the film’s quality. It is possible that the action, which is not inherently dramatic, would have been much more diluted had it not been for Grace Seri. She has such an internal magnetism that she radiates even in long, silent shots: their something piercing about her expression when she looks at the camera for the identity picture. A particularly impressive scene features her hesitance to raise her eyes after a necessary haircut which brings her great pain: we live through her then.
We get a complex world with complex character, and curiously there is no sense of being rushed. We also get a feeling of multiple perspectives particuarly due to Augustin Ruhabura’s delicate portrayal of a father still attached to his Cameroonian identity. You are not compelled to assume a subjective view but rather to understand both, and this is done with finesse.
The film’s direction could have been more impactful. There are too many different settings, which, given their unimportance, seem to be random. What’s more, the mundane incipient scene contradict the intense feelings we are left with at the end of the film. If all of the scenes could have been as spot-on as the last five minutes, it would have been a truly powerful film.
That said, the aura of French is one quite moving, tender, and intimate. It will particularly strike a chord in the heart of any immigrant.
Dir: Josza Anjembe
Scr: Josza Anjembe
Cast: Grace Seri, Augustin Rahabura, Mata Gabin, Ousmane Macalou, Mathilde La Musse, Roméo Mestenza
Prd: Gabriel Festoc, Nelson Ghrenassia
DOP: Noé Bach
Music: Jan Vysocky
Run-time: 21 minutes