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French cult film 'La Haine' to return as musical

Published October 19,2023

Nearly 30 years after the release of cult film "La Haine" -- a groundbreaking look at France's suburban ghettos -- it is returning in the form of a hip-hop stage musical.

The film's director Mathieu Kassovitz -- best known internationally as the star of TV spy series "The Bureau" -- is behind the adaptation, set to open in a Paris theatre next year.

"My PR people don't want me to call it a musical because it's a bit corny," Kassovitz told AFP with a smile.

"It's more modern than a classic musical. Hip-hop allows for a more natural approach, it makes sense to have a musical exchange that way."

He compared the show's approach to French film classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" from 1964 in which "there's no explanation why people are breaking into song in the middle of a scene".

"La Haine" (Hate) won Kassovitz best director at the Cannes Film Festival when he was just 27 in 1995 and made a star of Vincent Cassel as one of a trio of friends in a poor neighbourhood outside Paris engulfed by riots over police violence.

France has twice been similarly convulsed by major unrest in its restive suburbs since the movie, the latest riots earlier this year.

Production was already well under way when a 17-year-old, identified only as Nahel, was killed in June by a police officer during a traffic stop outside Paris, sparking violent protests nationwide.

Kassovitz said Nahel's death was different to the events of the film, "but for 30 years I have been called up every month to comment on some blunder."

"These images remind everyone that it never stopped, that's why we have this poster," he said, pointing to the slogan of the play that reads "La Haine: so far nothing has changed".

The stage show will feature some 30 dancers and around 15 original songs.

Kassovitz, 56, who has been acclaimed for his performances in "Amelie" and "A Self-Made Hero", is recovering from a horrific motorcycle accident last month but said that he was "fine".

He said he wants the show to recreate the "emotion, laughter and rhythm" of the three friends at the centre of the film, which made it so popular despite its hard-hitting subject.

"We grabbed people by the collar, we took them on a journey," he said.

While Said Taghmaoui and Hubert Kounde who starred alongside Cassel at the time were lauded by critics, their careers did not take off in the same way. Taghmaoui, however, has since carved himself out a solid niche as a character actor in major Hollywood movies including "Three Kings", "John Wick 3" and "Wonder Woman".