My paper juxtaposes Laurent Cantet’s films The Class (2008) and The Workshop (2017) to explore how they are infused with concerns about radical Islam and the place of Muslim immigrants in the West. Both films center on "angry young men" facing class-based marginalization, who are prone to anti-social behavior. In The Workshop, however, a great effort is made to reveal the intellectual potential and moral complexity of the young white French-born Antoine, whose alienation is defined by his attraction to the xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric of the Far Right, whereas viewers of The Class are kept at arm’s length from Souleymane, a Malian immigrant teenager whose nature as a recalcitrant student prone to violent outbursts is interwoven with signifiers emphasizing his Muslim identity. In contrasting these antiheros, I highlight the way Cantet, despite his politically progressive veneer, perpetuates dominant narratives of Muslim immigrants as intractably foreign, which are rooted in colonialism but have experienced a resurgence since 9/11. The cumulative effect of the divergences in these characters’ fates is to depict an angry young Muslim man as innately threatening and "different," unable to assimilate into European culture and drawn inexorably to a tragic end, while an angry young white man embodies great promise, distorted and nearly thwarted by external socioeconomic and cultural factors. Taken together, these films play out western tendencies to marginalize Muslims or reinforce stereotypes of them as inscrutable and alien, while centering, humanizing and valorizing white men.
"Islam, Immigrants, and the Angry Young Man: Laurent Cantet and the “limits of fabricated realism”,"
Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 24:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol24/iss2/2