FIPADOC, International Documentary Film Festival Biarritz 2022
In the 1960s and 1970s, the French economy was booming, creating a labor shortage, and putting an end to the golden era of coal mines. The former colonial officer Félix Mora was sent to Morocco to recruit and bring back more than 80,000 men to work shutting the French mines down. For Mora, they represented a low-cost workforce, willing to accept meager salaries and dangerous working conditions. For young Moroccan men, this mission held out the promise of a better future. After the mines’ closure, most of them settled in France, starting families that grew to represent more than 600,000 French citizens over two generations.
Through a rare panel of testimonies and archival footage, this film draws a nuanced portrait of this immigration experience and of the end of a chapter in French labor history.
Frédéric Laffont is a French director, producer, screenwriter and director of photography, known for Cowboys Don't Cry (2014), Hearts And Crafts (2011), and L'Étoile du soldat (2006). La Vie devant nous was co-authored by Ariane Chemin, French journalist and writer, and Mariame Tighanimine, writer and sociologist at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) and the French National Center for Research (CNRS).
Emmanuelle Saada is Chair of the French Department at Columbia and Professor of French and of History. Her main field of research and teaching is the history of the French empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a specific interest in law. Her current book project is about law and violence in Algeria and France in the 19th century.
Frédéric Viguier is Director of the Institute of French Studies at NYU. He is a sociologist with a focus on education and the welfare state in France. His current book project examines the paradoxical persistence of French education in Morocco since Moroccan independence.
This film is presented as part of the Columbia University Maison Française 2023 Film Festival, Across Generations: Unveiling the Past, Embracing the Present. The festival was curated by Shanny Peer, Fanny Guex and Ilana Custos-Quatreville and produced by the Columbia Maison Française.
Additional support was provided by the Knapp Family Foundation and Villa Albertine, and by our festival co-sponsors at Columbia University: Alliance Program, Department of History, Institute of African Studies, European Institute, and Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities. The full festival program can be found HERE.