Throughout February, Spring Street’s Images Cinema, working together with the Williams French Department, is screening four French films addressing the problems of xenophobia in France, especially towards Middle Eastern and Maghrebi immigrants.
Directed by Jacques Audiard and released in 2009, Un Prophète tells the story of Malik, a young man of Algerian background who must spend six years in jail for assaulting police officers. The head of a gang of Corsican mobsters finds Malik isolated as a newcomer and decides to use him first to assassinate members of other gangs in the prison, and later to act as a spy in and around the jail. Malik thus becomes embroiled in prison gang violence, all while learning to read and write in the prison and directing a covert drug business through connections outside of the jail. Throughout the film, Malik must face blatant racism from the Corsican mobsters, as well as his own questions about his place as a French Muslim in the complex social scene of the prison. The film, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, thus “examines prison as its own specific social system, [and] its corruption, cronyism, and racism a reflection of France at large,” says the Images website.
Other films already shown include 35 Rhums, or 35 Shots of Rum, and White Material, both films also discussing issues of ethnicity and xenophobia in France. The series will end on Monday, February 25, with Welcome, a 2009 film telling the story of a young illegal immigrant from Iraq who, with the help of a local swim coach, attempts to swim across the English Channel to rejoin his girlfriend, a recent immigrant to the U.K.