‘L’amour se dit dans un regard’? Immigration, visibility and representation in Marguerite Duras’s Les Mains négatives and Alice Diop’s Nous

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Abstract / Description of output

Marguerite Duras’s Les Mains négatives (1979) is a short film which interrogates the exclusion and marginalisation of immigrants in postcolonial French society by highlighting the hidden labour of Black sanitation workers in Paris. Alice Diop has described Les Mains négatives as ‘the entire subtext’ for her film Nous (2020), a documentary about people living in the suburbs of Paris. At once documents of social reality and experimental meditations on representation and filmmaking, both films examine the entanglements of viewing relations and social exclusion, and interrogate the moving image’s capacity to remedy the ‘invisibility’ of certain lives. This article brings the two films together in order to probe the ethical and political stakes of their strategies of representation, drawing on recent criticism at the intersections of postcolonial theory, and film and visual culture scholarship. This critical lens highlights the political force of the films’ experimental form. Yet bringing the two films into dialogue also allows productive frictions to emerge, exposing in particular the challenging aspects of the representation of Black subjects in Les Mains négatives which stand uneasily alongside the film’s message of inclusion and recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Early online date14 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Sept 2023

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