'Les Miserables' shows how people respond to stereotypes: actor-writer Alexis Manenti

Justin Rao

Mumbai, Mar 15 (PTI) French actor Alexis Manenti says his Oscar nominated political drama 'Les Miserables' is a timely film, for India and even the world, which is divided by hate.

Directed by Ladj Ly, the film is based on the 2005 French riots which took place in Montfermeil, a suburb 25 kilometers from Paris.

'Les Miserables' chronicles the events in a day, when an act of police violence is filmed by a local child and things spiral out of control.

'The riots were in 2005 but it feels like nothing changed. They built new buildings but it's the same poverty inside. The fire is (still) burning and it can lead to an explosion very fast,' Manenti, who has also co-written the film with director Ly and Giordano Gederlini, told PTI.

The actor says the teams intention with the film is to remind everyone, during a time of refugee crisis and religious clashes, to look beyond hate.

'We always say it's the 'other' which is bad, people from the suburbs or the minorities or the police but it's the government which has the real responsibility... It's the message of the film, how people aren't looking at each other but responding to stereotypes.

'The situation is very bad in Paris (when it comes to refugees), a lot of people sleep on the streets, running from wars and disasters. They're just here to have a better life but a lot of people don't want them to be a part of France.' This 'othering' is what 'Les Miserables' looks at critically examining the tension between the police and residents who feel marginalised and fight against the prejudice.

'With this film we have tried to say that policemen aren't the problem but they are part of the problem. It's the political system which makes it (the problem) happen. Some of the officers of course abuse their power... but they're underpaid.

'It's frustrating for those who want to make things better but they're only in front of mountains of problems and they are humans who can make errors. The movie shows how everything is more complex.' The film's director, Ly, grew up in Paris' immigrant suburbs and started recording videos of police confrontations with his friends. Manenti's co-star in the film, Omar Soumare, comes from a similar suburb and has lived the reality which the film shows.

'All of this makes it authentic. Omar comes from that kind of area, a suburb of Paris, he did it with a lot of honesty. It's hard for him to speak about his own suffering experience. People sometimes don't like to listen to it. I'm very proud to be a part of this project, where people have shown their lives and put their souls.' The 38-year-old actor hopes the treatment of marginalised community across the world changes.

'We have got a lot of chance in France, we can't say compared to other countries it's hard but it's getting more and more difficult to get the nationality. Everyone today wants to build their own community, everyone is just fighting for themselves or their community.

'I'd like to see a united France in the future, a France which accepts different communities, without religious fights, like here (in India) there's a lot of problem of Islamophobia. So the hope is for people to live together and look at each other like a human community,' he added.

'Les Miserables' opened in select theatres in India on Friday. PTI JUR SHD SHD