The Marchers -- A Review
Based on real events that transpired in 1983, the March Against Racism (La Marche) that took place across 930 miles of the map of France by Arab immigrants and their born-in-France progeny from various points of the globe, The Marchers is a 2-hour bicker-logue of taking the so-called bull by the horns. The Belgian-born Yadir re-enacts that event, where the marchers pro-actively seek public acceptance by nonviolent means.
A motley menu of types from attractive 20-something males to beautiful lesbians to Elvis lookalikes to young overweights to older sympathizers of non-exotic name variety start out from the Minguettes banlieues of Lyons through back roads and villages to scrape up a higher profile for their cause, which they see as unreasonable police violence and attacks against immigrants of Arab extraction. A local priest organizes the logistics, while a lovable cheese-van owner grumpily agrees to drive the group when the going gets too murky. Though there are interesting and punchy moments, the film is uneven as well as too pat.
The film seems longer than it need be -- each scene lasting minutes longer than necessary -- as the self-righteous rationales of the early adherents to the march, some nine trudgers, eventually become multitudinous once the TV mics pick up on the inherent drama of rain or shine footmen on a mission. The march began in the lower-income area of Marseilles in October, and ended up, 2 months later, in Paris -- forget that the surge of immigrants, and their harangues and insistence on ’their rights,’ exemptions, and benefits, their taking of jobs in the evident and harsh recession then current, may have angered the minority echelons of French who were competing with the waves of new immigrants for the few jobs available. The marchers pay little attention to the cultural oceanic-changes wrought by a belief system that squashes women and narrows the progress of males, even in secular France. A subplot romance between a native Frank and a lovely college senior Muslim female demonstrates that the ‘racism’ the group railed against did not hold true for the romantic couple, whose liaison is frowned upon by the girl herself, the group, and her aunt. Sex between the cultures, even when the couple love each other deeply? Mais non; jamais. Much is made of adventitious ruffians and crude-necks cruising in trucks or 'wagons, harassing or cursing the marchers, as well as the needless killing of a young Muslim on a train, with passengers all passive as the young male is defenestrated after being beaten.
But underlying clashes that anthropologists have limned for centuries is ignored, to the detriment of suspension of disbelief. These types of conflict are hard-wired into culture: A second cultural group that comes into conflict with the dominant culture challenges and odiously tries to trump the existing older one, or else subsumes itself into quiet accommodation, regularity, working lives and neighborly comity. Expecting a nation of supercharged testosteronic males to fold into the wine, women, and fromage of the French is, simply, toc-toc. Every nation experiencing any such major influx has reacted after a base-level of newbies has been achieved with vigorous controls and legal constraints on the rampant delinquency, welfare explosion, and uptick of unprecedented rape of indigenous women seen all over Europe.
A series of post-film cautions reminds us that the benefits conferred by the 'success' of the march under Mitterrand are “still germane” today, and still need “heeding.” But the story omits the larger cultural disaster that has come to characterize France in the past decade or two. Jews are afraid for their lives, as a direct consequence of these Northern African and same-faith (Islamic) imports, as well as the vast surges from the Middle Eastern countries disgorging what we here would describe as welfare queens. The chief rabbi of France has urged Jews, in the hundreds of thousands, to flee France, as it is no longer safe for them to identify as Jews. Young Jewish men have been tortured for being… just Jewish. Children on buses and teachers in synagogues have been firebombed and attacked, knifed in the streets…this, all in the very secular country of lapsed Christians.
The recreation of a 30-year-old event is well accomplished in outline, despite many fictionalized aspects. The anachronism I spotted in the generally accurate period hairstyles and clothing was the contemporary Victoria’s Secret brassiere worn by the closeted photographer, Claire, who casually undresses in front of the rapt young men in their sleeping bags and tents, which radical act is quickly ended by the Muslim hardliner, Kheira, who remonstrates with the immodesty that Claire the photog so casually displays.
The men in the movie, familiar from many recent films (Homeland, The Barons, Secret of the Grain), often on the same or similar topics, are interesting, but obviously without employment or gainful income. The parents, first-gen immigrants, fund the venture despite misgivings. One of the marchers is a druggie and occasional thief, but that is used as a point of humor and tsk tsk, rather than as a significant marker of civilizational shift and encroaching transposition of values.
Whatever the sometime merits of the recreation of this event, it is impossible not to acknowledge that in France today, Arab banlieues are often frightening -- so aggressive that even the area flics/police dare not enter. Jews and those thought to be have been firebombed, set alight and slowly tortured, church observance has been scorned and demonized, “honor killings” have become a social scourge by the radical understratum of angry immigrants making life difficult for longtime French (and neighboring countries’) residents.
More: cars have been routinely torched in the hundreds by “workers,” general strikes by "students" are whitewashed as perpetrated by the anonymous "young," when they are nothing of the sort; but transmitting footage that actually tells the truth about the vast underbelly of raging Muslim youth and male aliens is frowned on and usually prettified into palatable euphemistic sound bites. As with the MSM in the States, the media collude to hide the true nature of the rioters, despoilers, rampagers, and protesters. The term “peaceful” is not the first adjective to spring to mind.
It’s impossible to feel about this rah rah non-doc what the filmmaker was aiming for: The dolling up and whitewashing of a movement that may once have been almost justified, but in the end was not about stopping racism, as their signs indicated, but about giving in to the demands of the Muslim moieties that splunk all over the country without in the main conceding that the ambient secular French culture needs to be respected or observed, not mocked and degraded. The proportion of French Muslims in 1983 was a fraction of what it is today, now reputedly 10% of the total. Huge numbers of longtime French (and Germans, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.) object to the visible and violent erosion of their millennial native culture, language, dress, observance.
So as much as The Marchers tries to emulate the documentary success of the story of the Sudanese orphans and children marching across the Sahara (The Lost Boys of Sudan, 2003) to a source of food, comfort, and shelter, this is not that heart-warming and accurate a film. This is a credibly-acted and retail bit of anticipatory propaganda. Another entry into the myth-making that seeks to delude the world public that the victims of Islamic intransigence and civilization spearing in favor of Jurassic goals and aims are merely a whole lot of nutty westerners who refuse to empathize with the ‘innocent’ tsunamis of unbending and obdurate Muslim insurgents.
On its own, without concurrent exposition and history, this would be a touchy-feely Ain't this grand? filmic monument to a thin-gruel satyagraha (peace march) -- they bring up Gandhi a lot, which Attenborough film had just been released. But it isn't. It's ex post-facto self-serving myth- making on the order of the day: Victims is us.
March elsewhere if you want context.
In French, English subtitles.
At the Walter Reade Theatre/Lincoln Center, and independent/art houses.