Filmmaker Eric Baudelaire hands his camera to a class of Parisian teenagers with experimental and intermittently inspiring results
A fascinating experiment with, inevitably, mixed results, Eric Baudelaire’s big-hearted documentary Un Film Dramatique puts the camera in the hands of the students at a Parisian middle school and gives us the chance to see the world through their eyes. It makes for sometimes hilarious, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes rather boring viewing.
Every kid in the class throws themselves into the project with gusto, one finding their strength lies in performance, some in writing, some in directing, though, amusingly, they all go nuts for the sound editing. Un Film Dramatique is, by its nature, a bit of a hodgepodge, remarkably assured and mature classroom conversations about philosophy and racism suddenly giving way to blurry holiday footage before jumping back to the school for a debate on what exactly defines a documentary.
There are some delightful scenes, like when the class try their hand at making a horror movie (the monster being a kid wearing a hoodie backwards), and a trip to the beach inspires some impressionistic sequences that have a genuinely brilliant surreal charge. Between these moments, though, is a lot of dull filler, which most people will probably find are a bit of a slog.
All of the kids here are clearly very bright, with interesting perspectives on pressing issues, and many of them have a natural aptitude for filmmaking. Even if the footage Baudelaire collected from them could have done with a far more judicious edit (Un Film Dramatique runs at nearly two hours and has absolutely no need to), they shine bright with artistic potential, all while giving insight into their underprivileged district. We can only hope the French film industry takes notice.
Un Film Dramatique is now streaming on MUBI.Where to watch