It was the swaggering black-and-white drama that exposed the cracks in an unequal France. Twenty-five years later, its director Mathieu Kassovitz wonders what has changed
Even the wrong question points to the truth. When, in June 1995, Paris’s eastern suburb of Noisy-le-Grand began rioting after the death of a 21-year-old French-Arab in a police chase, politicians and the media asked if a film released the previous week, La Haine, had sparked the mayhem. Not police brutality, nor the social conditions in “Noisy-la-Haine”, as one newspaper put it – the poverty and boredom that may have led Belkacem Belhabib to steal the motorbike that he fatally crashed into a set of traffic lights.
La Haine, which premiered 25 years ago this week, asked the right questions. Its then 27-year-old writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz had been driven to make it by outrage over a similar incident to Belhabib: the accidental shooting of 17-year-old Zairian immigrant Makomé M’Bowole in a police station in April 1993. “I was in my car, not too far away, when I heard about it on the radio, so I parked and went to join in with the protests. I was so mad at the whole situation,” says Kassovitz today. This was just one of more than 300 recorded bavures (“slip-ups”) committed by French police since 1981.