Un Film Dramatique | Chicago Reader
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Un Film Dramatique

“For real,” begins one of the young subjects—or, more accurately, one of the young participants—in Paris-based artist-filmmaker Eric Baudelaire’s convivial and poignant documentary . . . wait. “Is it a film or a documentary?” the student finishes, after heatedly debating the subject with his classmates. An offscreen voice (presumably Baudelaire’s) playfully says he doesn’t know. The boy throws up his hands. “I say it’s science fiction,” he exclaims, noting a recent excursion to St-Ouen, where the sound for their film died, “was left behind,” according to the kids. This student, a Romanian immigrant living in a Parisian suburb, epitomizes the capriciousness of the project at hand. Over the course of four years, Baudelaire worked with and filmed the same group of middle schoolers at the newly established Dora Maar Junior High School; he also lent them a small camera they could use to document their lives outside school, the results as artless and perspicacious as children are wont to be. The subjects are largely non-white, and several are the children of immigrants—Saint-Denis, where they live, is a lower-middle-class suburb where crime is prevalent. Their extempore discussions on such issues as race, the refugee crisis, and even the sociopolitical configuration of their school system are whimsical yet grave. Baudelaire, however, is inclined toward concepts rather than themes, with the former here begetting the latter. Baudelaire and editor Claire Atherton intersperse inane sequences of activities such as the kids making short film projects unrelated to the larger endeavor and pasting up humorous flyers next to political advertisements; here, playfulness becomes an end in itself. In French and Romanian with subtitles.

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