“Vermin,” a horror film centered around killer spiders infiltrating a dilapidated apartment block, has emerged as the first major success of the year in France. The low-budget production surprises audiences not only with its arachnid antagonists but also by presenting France’s marginalized suburbs in a different light, depicting them as places of resilient solidarity facing issues rooted in neglect by authorities, media, and society at large.
Olivier Saby, representing co-producers Impact Films, stated, “We want to challenge stereotypes,” emphasizing the company’s mission to bring diversity to French cinemas. Impact Films, established in 2018, aims to authentically reflect real-life diversity in films and television, rejecting the idea of forced representation in every scene.
While French cinema has made progress in areas like gender representation, challenges persist regarding racial diversity. Although some black actors, such as “Lupin” star Omar Sy and comedian Jean-Pascal Zadi, have achieved stardom, systemic issues remain. Gathering data on race in France is currently prohibited, hindering efforts to address and measure the depth of the challenge.
Despite these obstacles, Impact Films strives to support films featuring LGBTQ+, disabled, or ethnic minority leads. The company also finances documentaries addressing environmental and social issues, actively promoting diversity both in front of and behind the camera.
Marie-Lou Dulac, founder of diversity consultancy DIRE et Dire, notes resistance within France’s cultural gatekeepers to blending social issues with creativity. However, she emphasizes the need to embrace diversity as a means of renewing creativity and exploring new narratives beyond traditional stereotypes.
Impact Films, committed to breaking clichés and supporting underrepresented voices, faces some backlash in a landscape where powerful right-wing figures are entering film production. Nonetheless, “Vermin” stands as a testament to the potential success of diverse narratives, challenging the prevailing norms and paving the way for a more inclusive on-screen representation in French cinema.