Directed by Josza Anjembe
Starring Grace Seri, Augustin Ruhabura, Mata Gabin
Short Film Review by Hannah Sayer
The short film French, also known as ‘Le bleu blanc rouge de mes cheveux’, is an intriguing and impressive short film debut from documentary filmmaker and journalist Josza Anjembe. In the short twenty minute running time, the film successfully manages to tackle themes of family, identity politics, culture and immigration.
Seyna, played by Grace Seri, is a seventeen year old who has the ambition of wanting to study politics after doing well in her exams. During a family dinner after finding out her results, the topic of identity comes up as Seyna has to make the decision to choose between her Cameroonian roots and her French identity. She is torn and faces the difficult decision of her father wanting her to do one thing and her wanting to do the other; she is torn between the future she wants for herself and not wanting to disappoint him. The title translates from French to English as ‘the red white blue of my hair’. The importance of natural hair as symbolic of identity and culture becomes significant towards the end of the short film as Anjembe hones in on the emotional trauma of Seyna not fully knowing or understanding her identity as she finds herself stuck in the middle.
Grace Seri is brilliant in this role and manages to portray Seyna’s conflict of self expertly. Noé Bach’s cinematography is particularly impressive in capturing Seyna’s feelings of isolation and conflict as she is torn between her loyalty to her family and the future career she wants for herself in politics. The obstacles she faces as she attempts to become a French citizen also allows for an important discussion to develop about the ways in which ethnic minorities are treated unfairly by the state.
French has done well on the film festival circuit, for example winning best short film at the Vienna International Film Festival in 2017 and the HP Bridging the Borders Award at the Palm Springs International ShortFest in 2016. This is an accomplished first step into the short film medium for Josza Anjembe and this story of identity and culture feels particularly relevant and important to bring into the frame.