“Building 5”: portrait of a suburb in the process of demolition

“Building 5”: portrait of a suburb in the process of demolition

Movies

In 2019, Les Misérables , selected in official competition, shook up the Cannes Film Festival, where it walked away with the Jury Prize. Released in theaters in November of the same year, Ladj Ly’s first feature film will total two million admissions and will receive four Césars in 2020, including best film. After such a welcome, we inevitably awaited the director’s return to the cinema.

Four years later, Building 5 , second part of an announced trilogy, is part of the continuity and extends, with less power, the approach launched previously: mapping the popular suburban cities, these forgotten territories of the Republic that the director knows well having grown up in the ‘one of them. In Montfermeil (Seine-Saint-Denis), precisely, which he endeavored to observe, from adolescence, through the lens of a camera always at hand.

The material, compact, dense, complex, which he accumulated had nourished Les Misérables , a burning, explosive film, produced under tension in the Bosquets district.

Ladj Ly chooses this time to broaden the framework by situating Building 5 in Montvilliers, an imaginary city capable of representing all those, very real, which, in France and elsewhere, remain confronted, through abandonment, with the same problems: unemployment, unsanitary housing, failure of social services, insecurity, resourcefulness and trafficking, despair and anger of residents. This high-level, all-encompassing approach delivers a panoramic view which has the limitation and defect of hovering over the many elements that compose it. Starting with the characters, who are reduced to the function and profile assigned to them at the start.

Dust wave

The mayor, Pierre Forges (Alexis Manenti), a pediatrician parachuted into charge of the city, who quickly feels overwhelmed by a reality that is foreign to him; the first deputy at the town hall, Roger Roche (Steve Tientcheu), who, despite his good will, his knowledge of the place and the population, does not always resist the sirens of corruption; the young activist Haby (Anta Diaw), who, very involved in community life, will decide to enter politics; Blaz, the mocking and disillusioned friend (Aristotle Luyindula); the wise man of the city, Bakari (Bass Dhem)…

Everyone plays their role, in a scenario which moves, in a succession of more or less stretched and sometimes expected episodes, towards its inevitable explosion. The film, which follows a familiar plot, reveals an unfortunately familiar landscape. As much as the poorly stated point of view, which, by wanting to give everyone a voice, showing each of the forces present in equal measure ends up neutralizing them.

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