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All eyes are on 39-year-old Ly after his feature debut, Les Misérables — a look at police brutality and the legacy of decades of neglect by France of its black and Arab citizens — exploded in Cannes with the force of a Molotov cocktail.
The director first made a splash with his documentary Speak-Up! (co-directed with Stéphane de Freitas), which picked up a César Award last year.
Ly has been a tireless documentarian of life in the banlieues — the rough, multicultural suburbs around Paris — for two decades now, and Les Misérables shows the influence of years of careful observation, alongside a poetically realistic style that owes much to the cinema of Costa Gavras, one of Ly's mentors.
Les Misérables won the jury prize in Cannes, the European Film Award for best first feature and secured a Golden Globe nomination. As France's official Academy Award entry it also made the nine-film shortlist for the 2020 international feature Oscar. For Ly, it's only the beginning. He is planning a banlieues trilogy, with the next film to be set during the time of the 2005 Paris riots.