Article written in the framework of the collaboration between the writing Culture of Figaro and the IPJ Paris-Dauphine.
Between two rehearsals for his concert at the Zenith in Paris, which will take place on Saturday 8 December, the musician speaks about his ambitions in film. It began in September with the shooting of his feature film, Commuters , the same name as her hit single released ten years earlier. A movie which will be released on Netflix.
He has written, co-produced and embodied. A scene in a territory of which he is familiar: the suburbs. “A kid that is shared between two big brothers to the path opposite. The first has chosen the street to find himself at the gates of the grand banditry. The second follows a brilliant academic lawyer.” Here is the synopsis of this unclassifiable artist who, in 2017, triumphed on the stage of the théâtre du Rond-Point, with the piece whose title summarizes perfectly his temperament: Vif .
LE FIGARO – Your film is called Commuters . So is this the only subject in which you feel legitimate?
Kery JAMES Not at all, there are other topics! I already wrote three synopsis and another more detailed scenario, which have no relation to the suburbs. This is not the only topic that I can handle, but it has not much been to the cinema… This is a topic that has not been treated well. I feel this need to talk to us.
Why have you decided to collaborate with Netflix ?
This was not a choice originally. I wanted to bring this film in the cinema when I started to write three years ago. But since then, the situation has changed, Netflix also. They have a desire to make the real movie, with a pan truly artistic. We knocked on all the doors but it was impossible to edit the film.
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Why come you not to edit the film for the cinema?
there was no real argument, but I felt that I couldn’t ride this film for reasons of censorship is unintentional. That is to say that the cinema did not welcome me. There is a between-self in the French cinema. They are well between them, the grants are almost always awarded to the same people, the same profiles.
“With Netflix, I shot the film as I had wanted to do. And with a traditional production, this would not have been possible”
Is this a problem of legitimacy?
Without realizing it, when they see a Black, in the middle of the rap, which carries a film about the suburbs, it scares them. When I was writing the script, I arrived in the final Price Scenario in 2016, beating out over 200 other productions. I also won the Prix Beaumarchais, the société des auteurs et compositeurs French drama. Despite this, it is impossible to have the funds from the centre national du cinema or television channels. While no doubt a filmmaker’s white with a little bit of fame would have been able to obtain.
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What was your reaction to this succession of refusals?
As usual. I realized that the rest of us, we need to do two times more to get the same result. I love the face of adversity, and if they had not reacted that way, I would not have been able to collaborate with Netflix. While for an artist with my personality, Netflix is perfect. In any occasion, they are involved in the scenario. I shot the film as I had wanted to do. And with a traditional production, this would not have been possible. They would have distorted my words.
do you Have the feeling of “disturbing” the environment?
Unconsciously, they did not want me to come to their thing. They remain in their small world. They know that I’m going to come up with a way, and so far, from an artistic point of view, what I have done is credible.
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In 2008, in your song Suburban you said: “What France doesn’t give us we going to take him.” This is what you do with this film?
we closed the door, we passed by the window… And thanks to Netflix , we can have access to a wider audience.
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do you Think that your look can contribute to shake up the industry of French cinema?
For me, art is not a goal in itself. Art is a way to spread ideas and change attitudes effectively. It is not by passion of the cinema that I go there, but to build a speech. I still think that it will give a new way to see and make cinema.
Who do you want to reach with this project? Is this a film by and for commuters or is it that it will be more “universal”?
The main character is in the final against the girl he is in love. They debated on the question “is the State solely responsible for the situation in the suburbs?”, the guy answers “no”, then that girl who is white and who comes from an affluent background castigates the State. It is a dialogue between two Frances, there is no discourse of victim, or tongue of wood… My play vif , we have played more than 100 times, in front of 50.000 viewers in total, and there were no people from the suburbs. There was a bit of everything. This is what I want for my film.
“What happened to the actors of The Hate tells something. Saïd Taghmaoui was forced to leave France in order to exist in the cinema, then that things have been easy for Vincent Cassel”
would you Consider the cinema as an extension of your texts and videos?
of course! I had started to fumble around a bit before that, a clip has been directed by Besson and Kassovtiz. I was going quite slowly. But I quickly realized that I’m not arriving to do the film if I was not writing my own films. I do not claim nor want to be an actor, but if I had waited they offered me a role, a young black man, a rapper, a role that fit me, I would have been able to wait for a long time. It is often locked up in clichés!
What do you think of the comédies French popular releases in recent years?
I do not look at them. But the French are good at comedy… Usually. One could say that I’m rather dîner de cons , that this kind of comedy of which you speak. Since I write, so for the past three years, I have a hard time watching movies that do concern me not, which I do not speak. If, in a movie, I do not feel represented by a bias of any kind, either by a character black, or just by a character who knows the reality of my life, I find it hard to watch. I became very hard on it…
What is the last movie, “outskirts,” that you liked?
Hatred remains a classic, it stands out from the crowd. After what happened to the actors to the result of this success tells us something. Saïd Taghmaoui speaks very well. It took that he was leaving France to be at the movies, so things have been a lot easier for Vincent Cassel.
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If the movie met a great success and is praised by the critics, just imagine-you get a prize of great magnitude?
It seems to me impossible, because it is technically unlikely that it happens, since rules of selection quite disadvantageous for the production Netflix . But if it happens, I will prepare a good speech… Which will be a foot of nose to the French cinema!
Kery James at the Zenith. 211, av Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, france
Date and time: the 8th of December at 20: 00, Tel.: 01 44 52 54 56 Seating: 45€
Eric Nahon IPJ
Cinema, theatre, music… The student-journalists of IPJ, Institute of Journalism of the University of Paris Dauphine, offer their views on current cultural events. A publication in partnership with Le Figaro culture.