Film Review: Oppressed Majority

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Publication Date: 
Mon, 2014-04-07

FILM REVIEW

Oppressed Majority (Majorité Opprimée), directed by Eléonore Pourriat, 2010

Review by Mélissa Boizot-Roche (translated by E. Reynolds)

Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority) is a short film from French screenwriter Eléonore Pourriat. At the time of its release in 2010, the film enjoyed moderate success, winning the prize for best short film at the Kiev international film festival, but did not receive broad public attention. It wasn’t until recently that the film suddenly became hugely popular, receiving almost 9 million views on YouTube (for the version with English subtitles), and as the subject of a number of articles and public debates in the media. 

The film begins with Pierre, the main character, walking along the street and pushing a stroller. This first scene immediately lulls the viewer into thinking that the film is presenting some form of egalitarian society where men and women share equally in daily tasks…

But we are soon aware that the film is actually depicting a world where the roles are reversed—a world where it is the women who hold the power and control in society. On his travels—with the stroller then later riding his bike—Pierre is verbally harassed by a number of different women he encounters. These verbal assaults become increasingly aggressive and extreme, culminating in a violent sexual assault by a group of young women in an alley. The scene then switches to Pierre at the police station reporting the assault to a woman police officer who lacks any respect or sympathy for his situation. When Pierre attempts to assert himself, the police officer is quick to accuse him of being aggressive and insulting.

In under 12 minutes, the film encourages us to reflect on women’s daily experiences in today’s society, where generally people believe that women’s equality has been achieved, despite the flagrant inequalities that still exist.

 

Police officer questioning Pierre after the assault. Still from Oppressed Majority

To be harassed in the street is an experience that is sadly familiar to the vast majority of women and girls. And toward the end of the film, the presentation of this violent sexual assault is clearly a commentary on the seriousness of violence against women in our society. This violence is such an important issue that we must continue to challenge and address publicly.

Director Eléonore Pourriat’s film depicts scenes that are unfortunately all too common in the lives of most women. Her reversal of roles demonstrates how unacceptable these situations are—that they should not be tolerated no matter what gender the aggressors or the victims of this harassment and violence.

When I began watching the film, I expected to really enjoy it, but in fact I felt quite uncomfortable watching it. It’s true that I tend to be very sensitive to violence depicted in films, and even have difficulty watching a violent film to the end. On one level, my discomfort may have kept me from fully appreciating this film. Once the film was over, I wanted to immediately move on to something else, to clear my mind of the film. On the other hand, I understand that this discomfort with the subject of her film was obviously exactly what Eléonore Pourriat was aiming for. Indeed, this violence is unacceptable and the fact that it is so widespread in our society should make us all uncomfortable.

It’s clear that this film has touched a nerve, not just with me. The director has received many complaints and personal attacks related to her film. In interviews, Pourriat explains that she is surprised and pleased with the sudden popularity of her film, but not surprised by some of the reactions the film has generated. The film is original and the ideas presented are intriguing and provocative, and the subject of the film is obviously true to life. Majorité Opprimée, a short and accessible film, is definitely worth seeing.

You can view the film on YouTube. [Warning: the film contains sexually explicit content].

Mélissa Boizot-Roche is a midwifery student at Université Laurentienne.  She is pleased to be able to bring together her passions for francophone culture and women’s health during her first midwifery placement in Eastern Ontario.

Additional resources

Enough is enough”: the fight to end everyday sexism, The Guardian

Turning the tables on sexism, by Leah Green and Tom Silverstone, The Guardian