This is the story already told (but always worth repeating) of a black heroine for whom the white school environment does not want to make room. These are the pitfalls and conflicts that come with the racism that is still latent, sometimes frontal, in situations where a person tries to access ranks hermetically closed to those who are like him.
Often very touching and even funny, Neneh superstar, written and directed by Ramzi Ben Sliman (My Revolution), is also sometimes disappointing. The pitfalls that the young girl encounters are marked too broadly. But they are also quite rare. It’s not that one would want to see young Neneh suffer even more discrimination (a discussion between the admissions jurors at the start of the film is fraught with racism on its own). But we are faced with a film that wants above all, ultimately, to do good. This results in a smoother side. Apart from the director of the school (guarantor of traditions), Neneh is not confronted with many people who are fundamentally reluctant to her presence at the school of the Paris Opera. Actress Maïwenn, in the role of Mariane Belaga, the director and former star, almost steals the show from her young counterpart at times.
Neneh superstar is firstly based on the premise of the injustice that non-white people face when they integrate into a predominantly white place. But it mostly develops into the story of a child who easily convinces everyone that she’s too talented to be left out. This storyline is easy to follow and makes for enjoyable moments to watch, which ultimately bring forth the power of resilience.
The actress Oumy Bruni Garrel is convincing in the title role, she who had already cut her teeth in the films of her father, Louis Garrel (The Crusade), and her mother, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. His parents, played by Aïssa Maïga and Steve Tientcheu, strongly embody this ambition of those who are always disadvantaged to give their child everything they could not receive.
Neneh superstar is doing good. We get attached to the girl, we cling to her dreams, we want her to succeed. The pitfalls could have been greater, for more realism, perhaps. It is above all the resolution of the mystery that hovers from the start (concerning the headmistress of the school) that leaves us wanting more.
Somewhat uneven, Neneh superstar remains a film that will certainly appeal to many.