Ladj Ly, the French filmmaker whose feature debut “Les Miserables” won Cannes’ Jury Prize and earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations, has just started shooting his next film, “Les Indesirables” (Undesirables).
The movie reteams Ly and “Les Miserables” producers Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral at Srab Films, the Paris-based banner whose recent credits include Alice Diop’s buzzed-about French Oscar entry “Saint Omer.”
“Les Indesirables” brings back the entire team behind “Les Miserables”: Wild Bunch International for world sales and Le Pacte for French distribution, as well as the pay TV channel Canal+ and Cine+ which pre-bought the film. The local public broadcaster France Televisions also scooped French free-to-air rights to the movie which will be headlined by a promising newcomer, Anta Diaw, and Alexis Manenti, whose gripping performance in “Les Miserables” earned him a Cesar Award for best male newcomer.
Penned by Ly and Giordano Gederlini (“Les Miserables”), “Les Indesirables” charts the journey of a fierce young woman, Habi (Anta Diaw), and a budding new mayor, Pierre (Manenti), crossing paths in an underprivileged suburb on the outskirts of Paris. Habi, a native of the suburb who is involved in social orgs helping locals, becomes a political figure. Pierre, meanwhile, is a former doctor who takes the city’s reins after the mayor’s death and sets off to follow his agenda.
Ayadi and Barral said the two-hander film will chronicle the young woman’s emancipation, and explore the tumult of a French suburb whose inhabitants are threatened by gentrification plans. Although the movie will have a political backdrop, the producers said it will be more novelistic than Ly’s debut movie, and will follow complex characters “who are neither good or bad.”
“Les Indesirables” is also set in a fictional suburb, unlike “Les Miserables” which was set in Montfermeil, where Ly grew up. “Ladj is telling a universal story that could happen anywhere in the world,” said Ayadi, adding that the “undesirables” are minorities from different communities cohabiting in the suburb. “The suburb brings together successive waves of immigration — with the latest always being perceived as the most undesirable,” Barral pointed.
Diaw and Manenti also star opposite Cesar-winning actor Jeanne Balibar (“Barbara,” “Les Miserables”) and Steve Tientcheu, who turned in a vibrant performance in “Les Miserables.” Lensed by Julien Poupard, the cinematographer of “Forever Young” and “Les Miserables,” “Les Indesirables” is due to wrap production in February.
Srab is currently behind “Saint Omer,” Diop’s feature debut is based on the true story of Laurence Coly, a Senegalese immigrant (Guslagie Malanda) who was accused of having killed her 15-month-old baby by abandoning her on a beach. The movie won Venice’s Golden Lion and Lion of the future from a jury presided over by Julianne Moore. “Saint Omer” earned stellar reviews, including in Variety where Rebecca Kiang described it as a “quietly momentous French courtroom drama that subtly but radically rewrites the rules of the game.”
“Saint Omer” is expected to turn up in the shortlist for the Oscar’s international feature category on Dec. 21. Diop participated in Q&A’s with Oscar-winning filmmakers such as Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Laura Poitras.