In April 1988, Kanak separatists from the remote French colony New Caledonia took 30 policemen hostage in the background to the French presidential battle between the left wing Francois Mitterand and right wing Jacques Chirac. Rebellion is told from the perspective of Captain Philippe Legorjus, an idealistic officer trying earnestly to mediate between the French and the Kanak, whilst the distant presidential election looms ominously in the backdrop enabling the gods to pour down upon the unfortunate mortals.
Rebellion is a fascinating film from Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine), who stars and directs but certainly never patronises his audience with sentimentality. For someone with little knowledge of the French colonial and domestic politics of the time, Rebellion‘s slow pacing can feel painstaking. Fortunately, it comes together into a powerful and universally relevant political drama regarding freedom and nationalism, and the plight of minority groups within the democratic political system. Kasovitz takes centre stage both behind and in front of the camera, commenting after the screening that his reason for also starring in the film was so that his portrayal of his character could be directly accountable to the Kanak people. It certainly succeeds in doing so and Rebellion’s veracious account of French oppression naturally ruffled more than a few feathers during its domestic release which is a testament to the audacity of its political narrative.
Review by David Rank
Rebellion is out now in the UK. Running time 136 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
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