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"Grrrls in the banlieue": Philippe Faucon's Samia and Fabrice Génestal's La Squale Carrie Tarr IF THE CINEMATIC BANLIEUE is primarily constructed as a site of difference , plurality and otherness, the banlieue film is also concerned with articulating the crisis in young "beur," black and/or white underclass masculinities . With few exceptions the visual texture of the banlieue film gives preference to spaces represented as male domains. The women who inhabit them are generally silenced, relegated to secondary roles, and/or constructed through stereotypes. Two recent white-male-authored films, however, focus on girlpower in the banlieue: Samia (Philippe Faucon, 2001) and La Squale (Fabrice Génestal, 2000). Samia is an adaptation of Soraya Nini's 1993 novel, Hs disent que je suis une beurette, co-written with Nini herself and based loosely on the author's own growing-up experiences as a "beurette." La Squale, Génestal's first film, which was nominated as such for the 2001 Césars, originated in a project initiated by the head teacher of a secondary school where Génestal was a teacher, and features two young ethnic minority women, a "renoi" (black girl) and a "beurette." Co-written with Nathalie Valloud, it developed out of the testimonies of adolescent schoolchildren regarding the practice of "les tournantes," or gang rapes, in the banlieue. Both films thus draw their topics indirectly from lived events and use a strong cast of nonactors and location shooting. Moreover, despite obvious differences—Samia is a realist chronicle of growing up in an immigrant Algerian family, La Squale a more melodramatic action narrative dependent on the tropes of the banlieue film—both received positive critical reviews underlining their perceived authenticity.1 Yet both also generated controversy, Samia because of its negative (and possibly outdated) construction of the traditional immigrant Algerian family,2 La Squale because of its shocking and overly pessimistic indictment of banlieue life. Bearing these criticisms in mind, I want to examine how relations of power are inscribed in the spaces of the banlieue they project, and what connections can be traced between their spatial and sexual politics. Feminine spaces in cinema have conventionally been coded, as Elisabeth Mahoney points out, as "enigmatic, silent and the negative Other, but also as a 'support or precondition' of the masculine and social."3 The spaces of the city available to young ethnic minority women in mainstream French cinema are doubly othered by the legacy of colonial stereotyping. In films the city 28 Fall 2002 Tarr streets are frequented by transgressive, sexualized women, from the Maghrebi prostitute of Le Grand frère (Francis Girod, 1982) to the black and Maghrebi prostitutes of Gamer (Zak Fishman, 2001). In contrast, the domestic spaces present us with the victims of the oppressive patriarchal Arabo-Islamic sex/gender system, from the tragic heroine of Pierre et Djamila (Gérard Blain, 1986) to the sister who needs rescuing in Chaos (Coline Serreau, 2001). Thus, representations of the spaces occupied by young women of immigrant origin, aimed primarily at a majority French audience, tend either to exoticize the ethnic other or, as Deniz Göktürk argues in relation to the representation of Turkish women in German cinema, to construct "hypocritical narratives of rescue, liberation and Westernization."4 Nevertheless, a growing number of films of the 1990s have challenged the absence of young ethnic minority women in the city as the subjects and agents of history and change. In Malik Chibane's Hexagone (1994) and Douce France (1995), young women of Maghrebi origin occupy public spaces without being reduced to stereotypical roles. And young Maghrebi women are the principal protagonists of Anne Fontaine's Les Histoires d'amour finissent mal en général (1993), Zaïda Ghorab-Volta's Souviens-toi de moi (1996) and Rachida Krim's Sous les pieds des femmes (1997). These women-authored films foreground hitherto marginalized female subjectivities and identities and in the process contest women's place within both the domestic and the public spheres.5 It is notable that both La Squale and Samia focus on teenage schoolgirls and their quest for identity at the awkward, vulnerable moment of the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Representations...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 28-38
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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