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Staff & contributors

Nothing about Saint Omer is easy. A female Senegalese migrant (Guslagie Malanga) is put to trial for committing infanticide, but throughout the film, it becomes clear how much of a victim she is too, of an uncaring and deeply prejudiced society. “What drove her to madness?” Her attorney asks at one point. We’re not sure. We're not necessarily asked to side with her, nor answer the many hard-hitting questions brought up in the film, but we sit with the uneasiness of it all and, in that silence, confront our ideas about motherhood, womanhood, personhood. 

This confusion is what makes the film so compelling. Despite the court’s best efforts, Laurence isn’t meant to be understood. She’s meant to be an example of the ever-ambiguous, forever-complicated, always-hurt person. It’s human nature after all to be this complex and messed up. The film shows us that the best that we can do in situations like this is to listen, understand, and as our protagonist Rama (Kayije Kagame) does, make peace with the noise. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aurelia Petit, Guslagie Malanda, Kayije Kagame, Louise Lemoine Torrès, Salimata Kamate, Thomas De Pourquery, Valérie Dréville, Xavier Maly

Director: Alice Diop

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Al-Hassan Ly, Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Ladj Ly

Rating: R

Just like with its predecessor, it can be surprising how sober Street Flow 2 is. You expect stories about street gang life to be of a certain tone, but these films are more interested in the emotional and philosophical struggle to respond to violence and poverty in a just and proper way. This sequel continues this conversation from a more stable (but therefore less interesting) position: youngest sibling Noumouké is no longer torn between the influence of his older brothers, as all three try to move forward as a united front. But without a more distinct dilemma driving the action forward, the film ends up spinning its wheels—and rushes to an incomplete ending  that doesn't say enough about survival, lawfulness, or the African immigrant experience in France.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alessandra Sublet, Alix Mathurin, Bakary Diombera, Cherine Ghemri, Foued Nabba, Georgina Elizabeth Okon, Jammeh Diangana, Kadi Diarra, Kery James, Krystel Roche, Mahamadou Coulibaly, Sana Sri

Director: Alix Mathurin, Kery James, Leïla Sy

Rating: R