Four years after “Les Misérables”, a multi-award winning shock film, director Ladj Ly changes tone but not setting: in “Building 5”, he evokes the difficulties of urban renewal and the twists and turns of local politics in the suburbs.
More classic in appearance, less driven by urgency than “Les Misérables”, “Bâtiment 5”, in theaters Wednesday, is interested in the scourge of degraded condominiums, these housing units in working-class neighborhoods in which modest families have found themselves stuck , caught in a vicious circle between explosion of charges and degradation of the building.
Until being offered, decades after their purchase, expropriation by the State and rehousing in public housing.
“A beautiful organized scam” denounces Ladj Ly, who knows the problem having grown up in Clichy/Montfermeil (Seine-Saint-Denis) which was among the largest of these vertical slums.
“Our parents all bought, we were all owners! We were told: to integrate, you have to be an owner. They finished paying their credit at 15% interest rate, we made them pay three times their apartment which was a finished scam; for 20 years after being expropriated and ending up as a tenant”, he testifies.
The film plays the confrontation between two newcomers to local politics, a pediatrician who agrees to become mayor after the death of the incumbent and will sink into authoritarianism, and a young woman, Haby (Anta Diaw) , revolted by the injustice done to expropriated families and who is going to launch a campaign.
After having collaborated on the script of two films of his close friends, (“Athena” by Romain Gavras for Netflix and “The young imam” by Kim Chapiron), Ladj Ly found a good part of his team of “Misérables” and well-equipped resources. more important, success requires.
(ld) Actor Alexis Manenti, director Ladj Ly and actress Anta Diaw at the Toronto festival to present the film “Building 5”, September 9, 2023 in Canada / VALERIE MACON / AFP/Archives
“We found a family with whom we experienced our best moments,” says actor Alexis Manenti. “We arrive after Les Misérables, we know we are expected.”
Like “Les Misérables”, which attracted 2.1 million spectators and collected 4 Césars including that of best film, the film has an almost documentary value, Ladj Ly knowing these places of Seine-Saint-Denis like few filmmakers and continuing to work with the people of the neighborhood where he grew up.
“In the film, we speak around ten languages, Bambara, Fulani, Soninké, Syrian, English, French! The idea is this richness. That’s what France today is, a mixture of traditions , we must pay homage to these cultures” without falling into clichés, underlines the 45-year-old director, at the center of the Kourtrajmé collective, which has helped for years to train cinema professionals in the Parisian suburbs and to whom Vincent Cassel and Mathieu are close. Kassovitz.
Director Ladj Ly at the Toronto film festival, September 9, 2023 in Canada / VALERIE MACON / AFP
After the riots which shook France following the death of Nahel, killed by a police officer in June, the film is eagerly awaited. It carries a message about the involvement in politics of young people from the neighborhoods.
And strikes by a scene which seems premonitory, where the mayor’s bourgeois residence is stormed by a desperate resident.
“It’s the only scene that is fictionalized in the film,” and it was filmed before the attack on the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of L’Haÿ-les-Roses (Val-de-Marne), specifies Ladj Ly.
“People are surprised, but you can sense when things are going to escalate. When things get worse, at some point, anger takes over,” he notes.
The elected LR saw his home attacked with a car ramming attack at the beginning of July, at the heart of the riots caused by Nahel’s death.