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Go see Les Misérables, a timely eye on police brutality in modern Paris

Ladj Ly’s Jury Prize-winning film will screen at LOST in London, a night that will also spotlight the work of Black youth led movement Tribe Named Athari

Ladj Ly’s debut feature film takes inspiration from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name, but invisions the struggles of the oppressed and deprived in the contemporary setting of Paris’ suburb of Montfermeil. Inspired by racist incidents he himself witnessed and the city’s 2005 riots, Ly’s epic, ferocious film Les Misérables – which took home last year’s Grand Jury prize at Cannes – remains an urgent and timely social commentary on community, race, police brutality, and revolution. 

From the creator of Secret Cinema, Fabien Riggall, comes LOST, a series of post-lockdown actions and special screenings, starting with Les Misérables. The crew behind LOST hope to engage with radical new ways to release and champion art with an urgent social message. The events will be held in collaboration with Black youth-led organisation Tribe Named Athari, and choreographer Joseph Toonga (Born To Protest curator and founder of Just Us Dance Theatre), from September 10-13 in Dalston’s EartH.

“More than 150 years have passed since Victor Hugo’s time, but poverty and social misery remain in Montfermeil,” says Ly in a statement, a local community member himself. “This film is for the youth in my community. It’s for young people everywhere. The LOST campaign is giving young people in this country a chance to do something that will enrich their lives and start a conversation around the conditions in which they live.”

The film stars Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, and Djebril Zonga, and it is the first film made by a Black director to represent France in the International category for an Oscar. You can watch an exclusive clip, via co-distributor Altitude, from the film below.

“As a Pan-Afrikan organisation, TNA believes international solidarity and unity between all Afrikans in the diaspora is integral,” says Ferns Hampton of Tribe Named Athari, a group which was born from the groundswell of Black Lives Matter in the UK. “Ladj Ly's masterpiece coming from the perspective of our brothers and sisters in France only advances this.”

LOST positions itself as a new, pioneering platform for art activism, debate and action around social issues. With this event and more planned, LOST aims to run social campaigns that speak to society’s most urgent issues through art, film, music, and visual art. At a time when cultural, art, and youth services are under immense financial strain due to the ongoing pandemic and ruthless government cuts (from the Tate job cuts to depleting youth mental health paralleling a freefall in mental health service referrals), LOST feels urgent and necessary. Toonga highlights how the project will “celebrate diverse voices in the arts and dismantle the negative stereotypes and perceptions that hinder a truly diverse society”. 

And after months of Black Lives Matter protests and continued fury over Grenfell and the Windrush scandal closer to home, LOST hopes to provide a space for solace, solidarity, and discussion on transcultural issues.

“This has to go beyond art house audiences,” says Riggall. “It has to go beyond the cinema audience. This story is happening right now. All the ideas of this release will be driven by Tribe Named Athari. This is their film now.”

Grime MC and rapper Lethal Bizzle, a supporter of the project, adds: “Hopefully this will break the doors open for more up and coming actors and directors, people that don’t necessarily look like the right ‘fit’. It’s important this story is told, there’s loads of people around the world that can relate to it. It’s authentic. It says ‘there’s something happening here’.”

All profits from ticket sales will go to Tribe Named Athari. The screenings will be held in line with government guidelines for safety and the prevention of COVID-19, and masks will be mandatory. 

Tickets are on sale now and available to buy hereLes Misérables will screen at LOST September 10-13 at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) 11-17 Stoke Newington road, Dalston, London N16 8BH. Les Misérables hits UK and Irish cinemas, from distributor Altitude, September 4