Even the knowledge that hip-hop has jumped all ethnic and national boundaries might not prepare one for the sights and sounds of DJ Rebel or Sista Vertu (Sister Micky) rhyming their pain, anger or irony in cadenced, percussive French. With the line between documentary and fiction seemingly getting ever thinner, helmer Caroline Chomienne blurs it more, researching her subject by trailing real rappers with a DV camera for months before selecting her “actors” and shooting her “script” in 35mm. Pic, basically a showcase for the hip-hop scene in Marseilles, has a nice “freestyle” looseness and a knockout color palette, but the pretext of “plot” is so slender it dissipates before anchoring its wandering minstrels. Novelty value is probably not enough to sell this laid-back Gallic oddity.
Pic follows a group, the Guest Clique, and hangs out with da playas at club gigs, Frog Radio or their families’ kitchens. Sometimes Chomienne’s frame of reference tends more toward Godard than gangsta, with Karim (aka K Rhyme le Roi) listening to his mother’s impassioned account of her years of poorly paid labor, then turning to the camera to rap about how her history demands versification.