Introduction: From Engagé to Indigné: French Cinema and the Crises of Globalization


In 2010, two years after the global financial collapse that triggered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the best-selling publication in France was not that year’s Prix Goncourt,1 Michel Houellebecq’s La carte et le territoire (The Map and the Territory), a novel published by Flammarion, one of Paris’s leading publishing houses. That honor went to Indignez-vous! (Time for Outrage!), a 32-page pamphlet authored by 93-year-old Stéphane Hessel, a former hero of the French Resistance, a concentration camp survivor and career diplomat. Hessel’s booklet, issued by Indigène Editions, a small provincial publisher, has since sold over 2 million copies, reaching an estimated 10 million readers in France alone, with millions more flocking worldwide to read him in translations that have now appeared in numerous other languages.2 Hessel’s cri de coeur urges young people in France, and indeed, the world over, to revive the fighting spirit of the French Resistance to the Nazi Occupation and to rise to the defense of freedom, democracy and social justice, the values for which his generation fought so valiantly. Almost a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the contemporary world’s chief menace is no longer totalitarianism, but rather, the free-wheeling economic system that goes by the name of “globalization,” a force that, for Hessel, is no less pernicious than the autocratic foes he faced in Nazi-occupied France.

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