Young and Alive (L’Époque)
Young and Alive is a peculiarly exhilarating, acutely painful document of today’s Parisian youth, filmed over three years since the Charlie Hebdo attack. The interviewees are a smorgasbord of modern France: wealthy, poor, middle class, black, white, Arab. Their concerns range from precarious adulthood to police injustice to government neglect. The relevance of the attacks is almost moot. A generation’s fears, apathy and aspirations propel them through the streets and the night.
Matthieu Bareyre smartly structures the testimonies: we begin with inquiries that tease out hopes, dreams and missed opportunities. We end with declarations of political will, with a desire to remake a morally crumbling, decrepit French state. Riots are interspersed with nightclubs, the music of each swamping over one another. Breaks of silence jolt us back into an embryonic language, into efforts to articulate frustration, prejudice, despair.
A middle class business student speaks of thwarted ambition – his parents prevented his pursuit of a career studying languages. It wouldn’t provide for his anticipated family, his imagined children. It’s a shame, but he’ll be probably OK. A young black girl, filled with ferocious polemic and cheeky antagonism, berates the riot police. This story is more tragic, less qualified by financial security and a fixed identity. It ends on an unequivocally pessimistic note.
Political elites fare poorly. Manuel Valls, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron are shown – perhaps unsurprisingly – as out of touch. Video footage of their slick, professional calls-to-arms is ironically juxtaposed with young people’s inchoate, antipathetic desire for social justice. The subjects lean almost exclusively one way, politically speaking, and perhaps a greater variety would have produced a more comprehensive picture: there’s little doubt reactionaries and the far right roam the arrondissements. Maybe they don’t deserve to be heard.
The film does well not to over egg the polemic, allowing both forthright and nuanced interventions to speak for themselves. There are fraught intellectual disputes among the rage. Overall, this is an expertly produced and edited work, one that doesn’t strain for hope and expectation, but leaves us despondent that a black European should decide to renounce her citizenship.
Young and Alive (L’Époque) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.