Short Film Review “French”



First, the Recap:

Tradition. Background. Customs. Heritage. Identity. All of these meld together to form the people we are, rich in the culture of our upbringing and places of birth. However, the world is also a melting pot, formed of citizens born in one country, but of another. If a time comes to make a choice of nationality, at what cost might it come to others or yourself? Seyna (Grace Seri) is a teenager on the verge of a new phase in her life. The daughter of a manual labor-working father Amidou (Augustin Ruhabura) and equally diligent mother, Djenabou (Mata Gabin), Seyna’s efforts at school have yielded the results she’s aimed for–her diploma.

Sharing the happy news first with classmates Chloe (Mathilde La Musse) and Jeremy (Romeo Mestenza), Seyna brings the accomplishment home, much to her parent’s and little brother Djibril’s (Ousmane Macalou) joy. With this completed and a reward from her parents in hand, one last thing remains–officially applying to become a French citizen. Having been born in country and in spite of her natural Cameroonian roots, Seyna’s excitement to take this step is paramount to her future identity. But, even as the subject is breached, it is more than evident the choice to pursue this is nothing her father wants any part of. As tensions and anger grow between them, Seyna must make a life-defining decision.

Next, my Mind:

Demonstrating a heart and soul that’s founded on real life experiences and issues people of ethnic minorities face in France, writer/director Josza Anjembe tackles the notion of cultural and national identity with a deft touch, affecting narrative, acute emotional execution, and a well-grounded overall approach that the viewer will feel a connection with, regardless of ethnic background. It’s an uncomplicated look at an intricately tangled circumstance when one person’s ideas of who they are and what they officially desire to be so greatly clashes against the ingrained, steadfast conventions of one who’s entire individuality and distinctiveness is housed solely in what their ethnicity is, no matter what country they currently reside within. It’s a hard dynamic to contest, especially as visualized here via the often strong father/daughter bond as its center, which only makes the dramatic impact and dilemma being encountered more keenly relevant, especially once the film reaches its highly stirring and emotive finale.

Newcomer Seri makes her film debut here as Seyna, a wonderfully bubbly yet mildly reserved and shy teenager whose just finished achieving a milestone in her schooling, which while worthy in itself, only opens the door to the next grand decision–to become a French citizens.  Her overt love and knowledge of the country of her birth belies the natural Cameroonian pedigree she comes from, and this becomes the heated point of contention between her and her nationalistic father who has loyalty first and foremost to the motherland of Cameroon. As Seyna moves forward in the way she feels her heart lead, it’s a solid statement of independence and growing up she exudes, not as a rebellion against her father or even his wishes, but rather to show that no matter what choice she makes, the love for him and everything he’s done for her will always remain. It’s one of those narratives that is so human and relatable, again, regardless of whether you’ve ever experienced a similar situation or not, and Seri just nails this performance with realistic delivery and endearing passion that signals the beginnings of huge potential.

A primary supporting turn arrives via Ruhabura as Seyna’s father Amidou, a straightforward, no-nonsense, well-meaning, but fiercely dutiful Cameroonian man whose notions of being considered anything else but that are more than deeply rooted and unshakable, which he also expects from his family. When Seyna’s convictions to become a French citizen arise so strongly, Amidou’s reaction is understandably filled with a resentment and disapproval, even though we know in his heart how much he treasures his daughter and only wants what is best for her well-being. His own personal growth during the story becomes slowly evident, leading up to a touching ending, with Ruhabura embodying the character with class, vigor, and skill. Additional support comes from Gabin as Seyna’s supportive mother Djenabou, Macalou as Seyna’s playfully bratty little brother Djibril, La Musse as Seyna’s best friend and classmate Chloe, Mestenza as another classmate Jeremy, plus appearances by Anthony Bajon, Cecile Kiffer, Cedric Bouvier, Regis Guingand, Nadine Mateky, Aminata Pautut, and Maude Lachuer.

In total, with its strongly represented message and heartfelt performances, “French” is yet another fantastic short film offering assured to continue to grab attention wherever it has the opportunity to be seen.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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