LA HAINE
1995
Dir: Mathieu Kassovitz
Outside their own countries, 'foreign-language' films are usually marketed as art-house films.
Even films which are commercial hits in their home-countries, are marketed as niche art-house films overseas - that is if they get any release at all.

'Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis', a French comedy made in 2008 broke every box office record in France, and was seen by 20.5m people. It has never been given a release in the USA.

'Les Intouchables' from 2011 is the second most successful French film ever at the box office. It was released in the USA, and became the most successful ever French-language film at the international box office. It reached No. 17 in the US box office charts in June 2012, showing at 77 screens. To put that in perspective, Madagascar 3 was showing in the same week at 4,258 screens.

The international market, particularly the US, is a tough place for non-English language films.

Moreover, the market for foreign films in the US is declining.
In the 1960s, imports accounted for 10 percent of the U.S. film box office.
Today it is 0.75 percent.

Of course, foreign films have always attracted somewhat a niche audience in the international market. But with the rise in English-language independent cinema, combined with a decline in independent cinemas, that niche has shrunk smaller and smaller.

One of the effects of this is that foreign films become a niche brand.
In order to succeed at the international box office, British films must either be costume dramas or Richard Curtis comedies of British manners.
Chinese films must include martial arts.

And what about French films?
Two of the most successful French films of recent times are 'Taken 2' and 'The Artist'.
'Taken 2' was made as an English-language film.
'The Artist' was set in the U.S.

What is a French film?
Is it a black-and-white story of handsome, slightly dangerous men smoking Gauloises?
Is it a lush story of romance in period, rural France?

Of course it is neither. Whilst marketers would like to 'brand' foreign-language films, French cinema defies classification.

'La Haine' is a great example of the diversity of French cinema style
This powerful urban drama drew its inspiration from many sources, not just French cinema, but also from American cinema. It was utterly contemporary both in subject matter and style, and when it was released, its fresh energy attracted both box office success and critical praise.
Times critic Wendy Ide called it 'One of the most blisteringly effective pieces of urban cinema ever made.'
It received a standing ovation at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, and the Prime Minister organized a special screening with mandatory attendance for his government ministers.

If you think you know French cinema, you don't, not until you've seen 'La Haine'

Paul Spurrier