By Morella Moret

The camera glides through the sky, towards a distant France. It’s nighttime and the flying camera takes us to the outskirts of the city. This tracking shot -accompanied by gentle, dreamlike music- lands us in Aulnay: one of the so-called French Projects— a zone with a relatively high level of violence and delinquency. The shot keeps gliding through the air until we reach the windows of the protagonists: Regi, Salimata, Naila, Nazario and others; young French kids who live out their days as if they were living out an adolescent high romance in which they are the main characters. This night no one sleeps. Every single one of them is weary of a danger lurking silently in the darkness.

Screened in the Kids & Youth section of the CPH:DOX Film Festival, happening this week, Swagger by Olivier Babinet tells us the story of a post-terror, fragmented France, as experienced by a diverse group of students. Babinet proposes a collective therapy session where the goal is avoiding judgment, either from the one who gazes or the one who is gazed at. The teenagers tell us their childhood dreams and adulthood nightmares. The director tries to show this through a sincere and wistful eye that is refreshing but sometimes overwhelming.

Different themes are touched upon, such as love, politics, death, family, religion and yearnings; leaving us with the feeling that the teenagers’ opinions don’t matter as much as the aesthetic their point-of-view suggests— a frenetic narrative form that can sometimes exhaust the viewer with the amount of visual resources it uses. Their words and opinions open up their fantasies and daydreams; they lead us to an imaginary and confusing not-too-distant France, where small drones in the shape of insects control humanity. Other sequences show the always-fashionable Regis filmed entering the school in the style of a dreamy musical moment that’s full of coolness and -yes- swagger; other musical scenes show these young people dancing while being forced by their circumstances to play at being adults.

Their sorrows and worries are also cautionary. Racism and bullying have increased in a culture prone to Islamophobia. These kids dream to avoid reality. They are afraid of the future; even more so, they are afraid of the uncertain present. Danger abounds in the Projects; the criminals battle police almost every night. And from their houses they can hear them fighting from time to time, amongst the sad and pensive silence. And we come back to reality but they keep on dreaming.

Section: Kids & Youth
Directed by Olivier Babinet
Script: Olivier Babinet
Cinematography: Timo Salminen
Edition: Isabelle Devinck
Music: Jean-Benoît Dunckel
Production Company: Kidam
France, 2016

More information about this film at CPH:DOX here