FRENCH Film: Teenager’s struggle with identity crosses borders

A Cameroonian teenager struggles to integrate into French citizenry without losing her identity.

Seyna getting ready to finish her ID From Unifrance.org

By Jacklyn Leo, freshman at Lusher Charter School

FRENCH”, originally titled “Les Blue Blanc Rouge de Mes Cheveux” (translated to the ‘blue white and red of my hair’) is a beautifully made film with an excellently expressed message that resonates with a lot of people. Only 20 minutes long, this short film is jam packed with everything a film needs to succeed.

Summary

The movie follows the story of Seyna, a french teenager of Cameroonian descent. She takes the Baccalaureate, or Bac for short, and passes with great scores. She wants to become a French citizen but her father is against it. Eventually Seyna steals her father’s work permit and takes it to get her ID. However, when it’s time to take her photo her hair is out of the frame and she can’t take the picture. She visits different photography places but none of them can take her picture either. Seyna makes the decision to shave her head. It is revealed that she used a gift card her parents gave her for getting good grades on her Bac to pay. After it’s done, Seyna goes home and hugs her father, which brings an end to the story.

Visually

The official movie poster of the film with its original french title. 
From Unifrance.org
The official movie poster of the film with its original french title. From Unifrance.org

First, the mechanics and behind the scenes. The camera work is very worthy of praise. Each shot is meaningful, whether the purpose be to move the story forward or tell us something about how the character is feeling. In a shot of Seyna walking down the street, we get a shot of her walking behind a fence with metal bars, demonstrating how trapped she feels by society and her father’s pressure. The editing is also masterful. Shots never felt too drawn out or too short to take in. The cuts matched the pace and mood of the scene very well and they all flowed really nicely. The acting was great, and the characters felt believable.

The Title

The American title is French, which holds a lot of weight. The word French isn’t just a language or a nationality, to many French people it’s an identity. Some people who were born in France consider themselves the real french people, while people immigrate there or have a different background are seen as ‘other’. It’s similar to the way some Americans see immigrants. There is a fear of sorts about people from Africa that they won’t assimilate properly into French culture. Even though many people from African countries speak French as their first language because of colonization, people are still worried that they will ruin their culture.

The woman processing Seyna's ID showing her that her her hair doesn't fit in the frame. 
From Unifranc.org
The woman processing Seyna’s ID showing her that her her hair doesn’t fit in the frame. From Unifrance.org

The original French title is “Les Bleu Blanc Rouge de Mes Cheveux” which means the “blue red and white of my hair.” Of course, this refers to Seyna’s hair, and the colors refer to the colors of the French flag. Throughout the story Seyna is shown to love her hair. The first shot we see her is when she is styling her hair, and she gets defensive when her friend grabs at it. This just packs a harder punch when we are shown that she can’t get her photo taken because of her hair. It sends a message that her hair is simply incompatible with a predominantly white France. The only way she can fit into the culture is if she sheds an important part of her Identity.

The Final Scene

The last scene of the movie is one of the most emotionally important scenes of the movie. In the scene directly before that, Seyna shaves off her hair, which is a powerful enough moment on it’s own, but it serves as an amazing segue to the ending. Seyna returns home and knocks on the door to her own home. She has symbolically split herself off from her family by changing such an important part of who she is, and she knows she can never truly be seen as fully French. She knocks on the door to her own home because she feels shut out. Then her father opens the door. The man who disapproved of what Seyna wanted the entire film. Seyna hands him some official forms pertaining to her ID and he stares down at them. Then her father places his hand on her head and pulls her in for a gentle hug of acceptance, showing her that he still loves her.

Would I recommend It?

“FRENCH” is a beautiful film about identity. Anyone who has struggled with finding your place in the world would relate to Seyna’s struggles. The film was made with extreme care and attention to detail that any movie lover would enjoy. If you need a quick watch then this should be your first go-to.