A video clip released by the French electro group Justice has caused controversy in the country for its aesthetic depiction of street violence. Attacking women, beating up old ladies and glassing bar-owners is all part of the glamorous storyline. If they were looking for attention – they got it.
The video clip for "Stress" was directed by Romain Gavras, son of the famous director with the same name. Artistically speaking there’s no dispute – it’s a success. The brutal and realistic atmosphere of the clip however leaves the viewer feeling perturbed. Do these images offer a candid view of the troubled Parisian suburbs, or merely add fuel to an already raging fire in the name of selling albums? The group’s record label, Ed Bangers Records, says that the artists, who are not products of the suburbs themselves and certainly not socially sympathetic, don’t want to explain their reasons behind the choice and claim to have no “communication strategy”. So we showed the clip to young people from the suburbs themselves. Here are their reactions.
"Not a bad way of selling records"
Jean-Philippe Sénécal, 34, is an unemployed web designer. He lives in Joinville le Pont, a Parisian suburb.
It’s true that these types of attacks happen all the time. Once I was on the metro and I saw someone stab somebody with a knife, and just to steal their jacket!
However, I found this clip outrageous. What’s their message? Sure, Justice wants to create a polemic, and that’s not a bad way of selling records. But young people in the suburbs will react by copying what they see in Stress. At 14-15 – the age of the actors in the clip – you’re easily influenced. You see Rocky on TV and the next day you punch your friend in the middle of school.
At one point in the clip we see them attacking a bar. Just before going inside, one of the aggressors gets out a baton. Its very graphic and it’s this type of attention to detail young people will notice. I bet in the next few weeks, extendable baton sales will take off."
"It would be stupid to ban this clip"
Romain, 19, a student in Le Havre, has set up a Facebook group in defence of the clip.
I was outraged by some of the comments posted on Justice’s MySpace page. Especially one that said the clip was funded by the ministry of immigration. I know it could be found shocking. I was shocked myself when I saw it for the first time. But everyone knows these kinds of things happen in the suburbs. Ok, it’s stereotypical. But all music videos are; especially rap and hip hop ones with their cars and naked girls. And I think what’s going on in the suburbs needs to be shown. The media talked about it at the time of the 2006 riots, but they haven't mentioned it since.
In Le Havre we have dodgy districts. I wasn’t there when they happened but I know there’s already been some violence in a shopping centre in the middle of town. I don’t think Justice wants to characterise the suburbs guys. They just want to bring the subject up, to create a debate. I think they’re right and I think it would be stupid to ban this clip. You have to fight for freedom of speech. Banning the clip from TV won’t make a difference. Like a lot of people I don’t bother turning the TV on anymore, because I can get everything on the internet. And it’s impossible to censure a video there."
"Little snobs that want to stir up trouble"
Saidou, 28, lives in a suburban city of Paris called Les Mureaux. He worked for a humanitarian association but he’s currently looking for work.
Where does he want to go with this clip? What’s the message behind it? Because what you see, is young black people beating up white people. If the music weren’t there, you’d really think it was a documentary; that everything was real. I listen to a lot of American gangster rap, and even in their clips you don’t see anything as violent. They get their guns out to show off, but it stops there.
This clip is seriously exaggerated. Guys from the suburbs couldn’t get away with a slew of attacks like this without being stopped by the police. They’re not as out of control as this. It really goes too far. They would never beat up an old woman for no reason. If you show this to kids from rough estates, they’ll tell you that they don’t do this kind of thing. There are limits.
What I find strange, is that the clip was released by an electro group. Of people of this age, 80% of them listen to rap, not electro. Why did these snobs make this film? Did they want to stir up a bit of trouble, like the whites who come to get their fix in the suburbs? That makes me laugh.
I’m sure they’ll create a buzz and after they’ll say that their project is only art. There are loads of art projects that use that excuse. Me, I don’t think so. I think they’re trying to say something else.
In the end, what will be gained? They’ll say to each other; "look at these poor suburb gangs coming into Paris. God, it’s scary". Seriously, I’d like to ask the people who made this to their faces, what exactly they were trying to do."
Justice: Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé
Photo: Sarah Liisborg