Malik Oussekine: Who is ‘France’s George Floyd’, portrayed in the new Disney+ series?

A new Disney+ mini-series tells the story of Malik Oussekine, the man often referred to as "France's Arab George Floyd". Here's what you need to know about him and his brutal death at the hands of French police.

Malik Oussekine: Who is 'France's George Floyd', portrayed in the new Disney+ series?
Flowers and letters on the spot in Paris where Malik Oussekine died at the hands of the police. Photo by Michel GANGNE / AFP

The latest French show to grab ahold of international audiences, “Oussekine” a Disney+ mini-series of four episodes, reinvestigates a dark part of France’s history. It became available for streaming worldwide on May 11th, and is available in English.

Long before Adama Traoré, whose death ignited Black Lives Matter protests across France, was the night of December 6th, 1986, when two police officers beat to death the 22-year-old French-Algerian on the sidelines of a student protest in Paris.

He had not been involved in the demonstration, and his killing became a turning point – triggering weeks of unrest and leading to the unprecedented conviction of the officers.

A march in memory of Malik Oussekine on December 4, 1987, a year after he was killed by the police (Photo by Jean-Loup GAUTREAU / AFP)

While Oussekine’s name has continued to reverberate among minorities, his story has never been adapted for the screen until now.

As if making up for lost time, two versions are being released this month: a film, “Our Brothers”, premieres at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Disney+ mini-series, “Oussekine.”

“He was attacked because of the colour of his skin. He is France’s Arab George Floyd,” historian Pascal Blanchard told AFP, referring to the African-American whose death at the hands of police in 2020 sparked massive international protests.

He said much of French society had allowed Oussekine’s story to be brushed under the carpet as with so much of its troubled history with immigrant populations.

“It’s not a question of whether Malik Oussekine has been forgotten, but by who?” said Blanchard.

France is still wrestling with the trauma of its colonial period, particularly the bloody war of independence in Algeria from 1954 to 1962.

Among its darkest moments was the massacre of up to 200 Algerian protesters by police in Paris on October 17th, 1961 — many of them shot dead and their bodies thrown into the Seine.

The events of that day went officially unacknowledged for decades until President Emmanuel Macron finally described them as “inexcusable crimes” at the 60th anniversary last year – though without apologising.

Oussekine’s death was crucial in marking the end of total police impunity – the first time that officers were convicted for this type of crime, according to the family’s lawyer, Georges Kiejman.

As the grandchildren of the original wave of North African immigrants come of age, there is increasing interest and willingness to address the past.

“For our generation, it is important to say that these individual stories form part of the French national story. They are not separate. These are French stories,” said Faiza Guene, 36 and born to Algerian parents, who helped write the screenplay for “Oussekine”.

Its director, Antoine Chevrollier, was part of the team behind hit spy series “The Bureau”, and the lauded political saga “Baron Noir”.

“The important thing is to make this name and this story resonate so that we never forget,” he told AFP.

Chevrollier, who grew up in a small village in the Loire Valley, says he only became fully aware of the power of Oussekine’s name when he moved to Paris and began to hang out with people from different backgrounds.

“I hope the series will help ease the tensions that are unsettling the country. It is time that we in France begin to treat these historical cancers.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French actress calls out cinema’s gay glass ceiling

A prominent French actress has rekindled debate over discrimination against LGBTQ performers in the country's venerated film industry, where most roles go to straight men and women.

French actress calls out cinema's gay glass ceiling

“I know French gay actors. They keep their mouths shut” regarding their sexuality, Muriel Robin, long one of the country’s most popular actors, told French television at the weekend.

Robin, 68, said that despite decades of widely praised stage shows, directors rarely offered her film roles because “I’m the only actor who’s revealed my homosexuality”.

She said openly LGBTQ actors could never have major careers because “if you are gay, you are not desirable”.

Aspiring actors in particular “need to be told that there’s no point in trying this career”, she said. “They won’t get any work.”

Only a few French film actors have come out publicly as LGBTQ in recent years. They include Adele Haenel, who announced in May that she was giving up acting over the industry’s “complacency” about sexual abuse.

Robin cited Hollywood star Jodie Foster, who for long kept quiet about her homosexuality.

British actor Rupert Everett has also recounted his difficulties getting roles as a gay man.

Several casting directors acknowledge that Robin’s allegations ring true. A 2022 report by the 50/50 Collective, which combats discrimination in the film and media sectors, found that for major characters in around 100 French movies whose sexuality is known, gay or bisexual people made up just five percent.

Those roles are “strongly stereotyped” and often played by actors who are not gay or who don’t say so if they are.

“It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just something that’s very ingrained that isn’t even thought about,” said casting director Stephane Gaillard.

“Even today, actors find it extremely hard to reveal who they are,” he added.

“For a straight person, playing a gay role gives them added value. It can propel a career. But for someone who’s gay it means taking the risk of being offered just one type of role.

Sophie Laine Diodovic, a casting director active with the 50/50 Collective, said Robin’s claims are particularly true for the biggest names, “who must always be objects of desire”.

“I’ve been told ‘this one is too gay’,” she said of one actor who did not fit the macho mould of a Gerard Depardieu or a Jean-Paul Belmondo.

She said French cinema needs “a cultural deconstruction of masculinity”, seeing progress already with the emergence of stars like Edouard Baer or Timothee Chalamet, who give a different spin on virility.

For Dominique Besnehard, a veteran actors’ agent and producer, Robin’s interview could have a salutary effect in particular on young actors, encouraging them to insist on a wider ranges of roles.

“She’s done a good thing… It’s going to get things moving,” he told BuzzTV.