Marseille in Focus: Where Reality meets Fiction

Marseille is in the news this week. French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a multibillion-euro plan to turn Marseille into what he called a world city. Some 1.5 billion euros will be spent on security, transport, housing and culture, and around 1.2 billion euros on schools alone in France's second-largest city. The Mediterranean port city, marred by gang crime, poverty and huge debt for decades, appears to be turning a corner as a magnet for young people, artists and more tourism. The massive investment plan - dubbed 'Marseille en Grand', or thinking big for Marseille - was criticized by political rivals as an opportunistic electoral gimmick but hailed by local officials, including Marseille’s mayor Benoit Payan, as a "historic" opportunity. You can read more about this news event in current issues of Libération and Aujourd'hui en France available to you on the AFSF Culturethèque e-library Le Kiosque du Jour section.

The fictional account of the city, created by Netflix, tells a tale of power, corruption and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the French port city of Marseille. The series follows the race for the city's next mayor and the secret agendas of all involved. The current mayor, played by veteran French actor Gérard Depardieu, finds himself in a power struggle with his protégé and both men are willing to do whatever it takes to win. But the protégé’s all-consuming ambition and the secret interests of the city's leaders, whether they come from its opulent villas or from the tougher northern suburbs, impede the mayor’s plans. The race for Mayor becomes a power struggle where no holds are barred including mafia involvement, drug traffickers and political corruption. While Marseille received mixed reviews for the script writing, the beautiful setting of the port city and the themes explored in the story do reflect the reality that Macron is now trying to improve with his new investment plan.

Whether you follow the reality in the French press stories or the fiction in the Netflix series, you are sure to enhance your cultural awareness of this beautiful port city. Engaging with news in the French language is also a fantastic way to improve your vocabulary and reading comprehension skills as discussed in this helpful FluentU blog. French film series are a great resource to practice your listening comprehension skills as well. This informative blog offers some great viewing tips and reminders to get the most out of watching films for your French learning (apprentissage) journey. If you enjoy watching French films, a few other popular TV series to check out include Lupin and Call my Agent. Bonne lecture et bon visionnage de l'actualité et des films marseillais !

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