Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Jeunesse dorée

Zaïda Ghorab-Volta (2001)


Genre: Drama

Jeunesse dorée (Golden Youth, 2002) is the second feature-length film by Zaida Ghorab-Volta, whose one-hour long Souviens-toi de moi (Remember me) was well received in 1996. It is a low-budget film relying on an amateur cast - the two central leads came from the unemployment agency (ANPE) in Colombes where the film is set, and where Ghorab-Volta herself grew up. Unusually it focuses on the working-class suburban (banlieue) housing estate from the point of view of two young white women, introverted Gwenaelle (Alexandre Jeudon) and more extrovert Angela (Alexandre Laflandre), both of whom suffer from frustrating home lives and are looking for a way out. They do so by putting together a winning project for a competition organised by a local association on the housing estate, namely photographing housing estates throughout the French countryside for an exhibition.

The first part of the film documents the multi-ethnic banlieue, in particular through the self-reflexive use of the camera as the young women photograph its inhabitants, testifying to the banlieue as a multi-layered social space.  The longer second part traces their adventures as they journey through France, photographing various blocks of flats in odd places in the countryside, demonstrating the nationwide implantations of banlieue-type housing, and refusing any normative postcard-type representations of France for tourists. Their encounters, often improvised as the result of the film crew's actual encounters on the road, work to deconstruct cliches about those who live in this type of housing.  However, the film rather peters out as they become involved with a trio of ecologically-minded white youths in an idyllic mountain retreat, then move on to the Pyrenees.  The film is interesting as a woman-centred road movie, but one wonders how different things might have been had the director opted for black or Maghrebi-French heroines, rather than white women. 

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