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Nationale 7

Uneasy Riders

Jean-Pierre Sinapi’s brittle, funky comedy is without a doubt the most no-nonsense, bracingly bolshy film about disability yet made. It’s set in a home for the disabled, where 50-year-old Rene (Olivier Gourmet) is the despair of his new young carer, Julie (Nadia Kaci). Enraged by life in a wheelchair, Rene demands the chance to make love again, and Julie finds herself exploring the hard shoulder of the Route Nationale 7 to recruit a likely prostitute. Rene’s exploits soon transform the whole community, including a wheelchair-racing Clash fan and a young gay Muslim with a Johnny Halliday fixation who is attempting an uneasy conversion to Catholicism.

Sinapi’s film is shot digitally, which at once gives it a crisply no-nonsense docu-drama feel. But the mobility of the new camcorder technology also becomes a metaphor for the hard-won mobility of its characters a militant gesture for
a militant film which has more than a touch of Mike Leigh humour about it. Sinapi’s film knocks down more than one preconception not just about disability, but about sexuality, religion and politics too. The crisp sparring between Nadia Kaci and Olivier Gourmet (known for his roles in the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta and The Promise) is just part of the pleasure of this vibrant, provocative piece.ÑJonathan Romney/London Film Festival programme. (France, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 90 mins.)

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