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Sortir de la banlieue: (re)articulations of national and gender identities in Zaïda Ghorab-Volta's Jeunesse Dorée

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This article explores the constructions of urban space, national identity and gender mediated by an important genre of contemporary French cinema, the film de banlieue. Over the last 20 years, films by both French and French-Maghrebi filmmakers determined to show the reality of life on the outskirts of France's major cities have paradoxically helped reinforce notions of the grands ensembles as places outside the mainstream of culture and identity. In her movie Jeunesse Dorée (2002), filmmaker Zaïda Ghorab-Volta uses the simple narrative of a road trip made by two young working-class women around France photographing these ensembles to subvert various forms of discursive emplacement that have resulted from the convergence between inhuman built environments and filmic representations of those environments that exploit ethnic difference and glamorize masculine violence. Although the film recognizes the incarcerative nature of these modernist neighbourhoods for women, it does not mediate a simplistic rejection of the banlieu. Instead, Jeunesse Dorée proposes a working class solidarity that cuts across place, race and gender, and a relationship between (urban) modernity and (geographical) citizenship that reworks mainstream French ways of thinking about urban culture and the space of nationhood. The young women's project of ‘framing modernity’ also works within the film as a mise en abyme, recuperating high modernist theories of mediated vision as a primary link between cities and their hinterlands.
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Keywords: cine de banlieue; film de banlieue; gender; genre sexué; género; identidad nacional; identité nationale; landscape; national identity; paisaje; paysage; urbanism; urbanisme; urbanismo

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Cornell University – Landscape Architecture, Kennedy HallIthaca, US

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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