In a natural evolution from his Oscar-nominated feature Les Miserables (not the musical), Mali born French auteur Ladj Ly goes back to his own neighborhood to tell the story of Baitment 5 (or Les Indesirables), a group of housing units made up of deteriorating apartments where the elevator doesn’t work. In his serious indictment of the housing policies and the politics behind them, Ly reveals the vicious circle that keeps people in poverty and why refugees so often struggle to find a strong foundation in their newfound homes.
The film features a stunning ensemble including newcomer Anta Diaw who gives an empathetic and deeply felt performance in an ensemble that often feels like you aren’t watching a film, but rather a documentary. The tension for the safety of the families living in Baitment 5 is constantly in flux and the conflict continues as the community runs into problems with the destruction of one of the apartments, rousing political changes, a bus driver strike, and constraints put on their vocations by the local politicians and police department.
While often feeling small in scale, the film reveals Ly’s ability to coordinate large impressive sequences with tons of extras and objects thrown around. There are also many well-filmed stunt scenes with police violence, building destruction, and fire. The film constantly presents new issues without seeming to hamper conflict for the story’s sake. In doing so, he keeps it constantly interesting but always grounded in the characters and their families. The acting is all amazing but the stand out is Aristotle Luyindaya as the tempered blaze who gives a performance full of rage and heartbreak. The film is also cut very well, ensuring a good balance of montage, longer dialogue, and action scenes which all encompass a very well-paced movie that never loses track of its need to have strong goals and obstacles.
Les Indesirables is currently playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.