Mixed-Race Melodrama: Métisse

Mixed-Race Melodrama: Métisse

Dr Zélie Asava: Rethinking Representation

Zélie Asava, Academic. Speaker. Author.

Métisse [Mixed-Race] (Kassovitz, France, 1993) adheres to the ethics of beur cinema by reimagining the French nuclear family as black, mixed and white through its central characters. As a pioneering work it is flawed but, by directly engaging with issues of race, class, gender and sexuality, the film challenges the culturally embedded assumptions of its socio-historic moment and space.

Like Kassovitz’s 1995 film La Haine, Métisse visualises a France infused with Americana – various scenes feature fast food chains, basketball, drug dealing, graffiti, and hip hop. This cross-cultural focus belies the mixed history of the French nation, and locates the film in a society and industry profoundly changed by the post-WWII period of American commercial domination.[1] Métisse’s mise en scène evades traditional Parisian tropes – key landmarks are absent and there is little philosophising or romance (only its troublesome consequences). The protagonists are immature anti-heroes – rather than effortlessly chic intellectuals – and embody a mixed-race France. As such, they stand as a contrast to contemporaneous cinema culture – e.g. Amélie (Jeunet, France, 2001) or Les Apprentis [The Apprentices] (Salvadori, France, 1995) – where Paris is visualised through a white lens. Métisse is a conscious attempt to rewrite the city as its ordinary inhabitants know it; to show characters driven by tangible problems rather than ennui

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