It’s late at night in a grocery store in Switzerland and all is calm. Two Egyptian shopkeepers are having a lively discussion about… peppers and a multicultural group of strangers are busy shopping. Unbeknownst to the them, their nights are about to get ruined. A perfect marriage of social commentary and side-splitting humour, Discipline shows how quickly things can get out of hand when cultural tensions and immaturity are allowed to butt heads.
It would be impossible to watch Discipline and not see the spirit of Do The Right Thing (Dir. Spike Lee, 1989), and Crash (Dir. Paul Higgis, 2004) to an extent, woven into its style, narrative and characters. For example, Discipline mirrors the humour and staccato dialogue of Do The Right Thing, and, like Spike Lee’s classic, it shows how one small incident can cause a domino effect. At the same time, Discipline’s social commentary pulls no punches and it is as pin sharp as Paul Higgis’ Oscar winner.
However, Christophe Saber’s masterpiece is not a cheap imitator of its forebears. In fact, Discipline sets itself apart by emphasising the absurdity at the heart of most conflicts and cultural tensions. This is articulated perfectly in the framing of the film. In the opening scene, the two shopkeepers are immersed in a conversation about spicy food and being called a kid for not liking them. While at the end of the film, the young girl turns away from the fighting to look into the camera, and ask with silence and incredulousness, “Who is the real child here?”
Furthermore, Saber sets his film apart by using his Egyptian background to sprinkle the dialogue with very specific humour, e.g. Egyptians believing that Algerians don’t speak real Arabic. Whilst being funny, such set pieces add real texture and authenticity to Discipline and helps ground it in relatable terms. Also, the light-heartedness does well to act as a counter-balance to the dark themes of racism and xenophobia peppered throughout. Discipline is the perfect film to inspire both debate and laughter. It’s a must-watch.
You can watch Discipline here