The idiocy and injustice of racism are explored in the omnibus collection “Don’t Make Trouble!”, a dozen short films directed by well-known helmers from scripts by youngsters aged 16-26. Already individually aired on Gallic TV, this uneven but mostly thought-provoking grouping went out in 30 prints to hardtops nationwide in France starting Jan. 17. In the U.K., the British Film Institute has already committed to distributing five prints.
Most satisfying in the batch is Paul Boujenah’s wryly comic “Look, Mom!,” in which an imaginative young white boy comes face to face with a black woman in a convenience store and calls his mom’s attention to his discovery. A potentially awkward moment is resolved beautifully.
Christophe Otzenberger’s strong, involving entry “The French Vintner” concerns an Arab telemarketer (Roschdy Zem) who sells fine wines over the phone under the French-sounding pseudonym Luc Leblanc. However, he’s told by his boss — himself an Arab — that he can’t deliver an order in person because, where the ritzy clientele is concerned, “There are no Arabs at this wine company!”
Thesp Vincent Lindon makes a fine directing debut with “Cyrano,” in which the pretty teen daughter of a wealthy family agrees to meet the secret admirer who’s been sending her beautifully written love letters. Denouement speaks volumes about insular thinking and preconceived notions.
A nice surprise is Emilie Deleuze’s “Letter to Abou,” in which a boy who has just arrived in France from Muslim Africa is led to believe he’s in for a hard time. But he quickly makes friends of many stripes, including a white kid who eats pork.
Veterans Yves Angelo and Francois Dupeyron cap the collection with “Poitiers, Car 11,” the misadventures of a gruff man (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who boards a train, finds an extended family of North Africans in his seat and talks his way into a corner that’s nerve wracking for him and amusingly revelatory for the viewer.
In the entry that gives the omnibus its title, Philippe Lioret deftly portrays the subtle interplay between an immigrant grandfather and his French-born grandson when the boy tries to assert himself over unfair treatment. Grandpa reflexively counsels deference, urging “Don’t make trouble!”