'Les Miserables' Director Ladj Ly Under Fire in France Over Criminal Past

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Ladj Ly

The French filmmaker, who served a two-year prison term for complicity in a kidnapping case, has sued two right-wing magazines for falsely reporting he had been convicted of taking part in an attempted murder.

Ladj Ly, the director of France’s Oscar shortlisted smash Les Misérables, has come under fire over the past few days after two French publications falsely reported that he was convicted of complicity in an attempted murder.

Ly, whose debut feature won the Jury Prize in Cannes and has become a box office hit in France, is now suing the magazines Valeurs actuelles and Causeur, both known for their heavily right-wing views, for allegedly committing “libel” and “racist slander” in their reporting on him.

This week, however, French left-wing daily Libération reported that Ly was, in fact, convicted in 2009 of complicity in a kidnapping and sequestration case, for which he received a three-year sentence. Ly unsuccessfully appealed the ruling in 2012 and served a reduced two-year prison sentence.

According to Libération, as well as reports from the time, Ly was an accomplice in a 2009 crime orchestrated by Amad Ly (no relation), who hailed from the same Parisian suburb of Montfermeil (where the action in Les Misérables is set). Amad Ly sequestered and attacked the husband of his cousin after he found out the latter was having an affair with his sister. He received a five-year sentence.

The Libération article confirmed that Ladj Ly was convicted of two earlier offenses as well.

The first, dating back to 2011, involved a video of police violence in Montfermeil that Ly posted online and to which he added “outrageous commentary.” The director received a six-month suspended sentence and a €400 ($445) fine. The second was from 2012, when Ly was condemned for “verbal assault and violence against a public official,” in this case the mayor of Montfermeil Xavier Lemoine, who Ly and others verbally attacked following an incident in which a 9-month-old baby died in a fire. Both cases were reported by Le Parisien.

Les Misérables, which is set in Montfermeil and portrays a neighborhood rampant with crime, police violence and public unrest, was released in France in November and has proved a commercial success, earning around $11 million to date for Universal Pictures International in the territory. Les Misérables has been nominated for a Golden Globe and is France’s entry for best international feature at the 2020 Academy Awards, for which it was shortlisted this week.