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The Independent Culture

It's not often that government ministers are moved to criticise a film, but Bertrand Tavernier's new thriller L 627 has been the target of some very lofty brick-bats. The film, named after the French penal code article on drug trafficking, presents a bleak picture of an unscrupulous police force and an uncaring government. Parisian drugs squad detectives are shown head-butting suspects, kicking dealers in the groin until they vomit and generally behaving in an uncouth fashion. Worse, the drug dealers shown in L 627 are exclusively Arab or black African immigrants.

The Interior Minister, Paul Quiles, was so stung by the portrayal that he went on the record to denounce the film as a 'caricature', adding tetchily 'we didn't wait for this movie to start taking the drug trade seriously'. Even Le Nouvel Observateur, the weekly bible of the left-wing intelligentsia, was moved to ask in a headline: 'Is L 627 racist?' Tavernier, something of a left-wing intellectual himself, has denied the charge, claiming that 80 per cent of Parisian pushers really are black or Arab, and pointing out that he should know - his son, to whom the film is dedicated, is a reformed heroin addict. The director also accused Quiles of pursuing a vendetta against Michel Alexandre, a drug squad detective who co-authored the script, a charge Quiles denies. Asked by Le Quotidien de Paris whether he liked the police, Tavernier replied: 'There are officers I detest, such as the drunkards, the racists and those who abuse their power.' As is often the case, the controversy has only helped boost the film into the top five at the Paris box- office.


Bertrand Tavernier, the director of L627 (featured in Rushes two weeks ago), has asked us to point out that the drug dealers featured in the film are 'mostly' black and Arab, not 'exclusively' as the text stated. He adds: 'I'm showing that drugs destroy people among the blacks too . . .' We apologise for the error.