Opening 14 Jun 2018
Neϊla Salah (Camélia Jordana) is of foreign extraction and lives in a working class neighborhood in Paris with her mother. Her boyfriend Mounir (Yasin Houicha) drives a taxi. In spite of this difficult background she has been accepted for her exceptional abilities in the renowned Assis School of Law in Paris. She arrives late on the first day of her first course and attempts to slide unnoticed into a seat during the lecture of Professor Pierre Mazard (Daniel Auteuil). Mazard, who has the reputation of being racist, biased, and arrogant, stops his lecture to lash out at this stupid, presumptuous little nobody who dares to interrupt him. The students are shocked at the behavior, not of Neϊla, but of Mazard. They complain to the head office. Mazard is called in and faced with dismissal. He can redeem himself if he agrees to coach Neϊla privately in order to prepare her for a rhetoric competition, where arguing one’s point of view is judged. This is good practice for a law student.
Naturally, we can almost guess the ending, which gives us time to sit back and enjoy the words, the “rhetoric,” not only in preparation for and during the actual competitions, but especially between Professor Mazard and his student as they battle out their differences. Daniel Auteuil is an established French actor since over 40 years, winner of many awards. He compares this film to a modern-day Pygmalion. Camélia Jordana began her career as a singer. Director Yvan Attal began with acting then turned to directing. He said that the life of Neϊla, reminded him of his own life: growing up poor with the chance to make something of himself. He enjoyed filming at the university where he had over 700 extras. Auteuil, Jordana, and Attal all have some family background in French Algeria. It’s important to understand the language of the film, whether original French or German subtitles or something else, since the text carries the whole action. (Becky Tan)