PACIFIC CLUB a film by VALENTIN NOUJAÏM. 2023. France/Qatar. 16 min. A window into a bygone ‘80s nightclub beneath the heart of Paris’s business district that doubled as a refuge for the city’s Arab youth.


The first installment in Franco-Lebanese filmmaker Valentin Noujaïm’s video trilogy about the Parisian business district of La Défense explores a bygone nightclub that served as a refuge for the city’s Arab population during the ‘80s. Pacific Club mixes music, testimonials, and digital renderings to remember a history buried by capitalist development. 


In making Pacific Club, Noujaïm had to wrestle with how to depict this forgotten period of immigrant life in Paris while respecting his subjects’ right to discretion since many of the club’s regulars died due to heroin and AIDS-related causes. He found that using a three-dimensional model of the Pacific Club alongside static 16mm footage of La Défense today and other echoes of the club’s history like online anecdotes and musical snippets evoked its existence in a ghostly register.



“La Défense, Paris’s business district, is a sterile, lifeless place, a space where one passes through but no longer creates history, where concrete has erased traces of the past. One can truly envision this district as a kind of dreamed colony of France within the suburbs of Paris. La Défense was built on and around immigrant neighborhoods. This concrete has erased the traces of the regulars of the Pacific Club.” VALENTIN NOUJAÏM


Throughout his trilogy, Noujaïm has collaborated with the Manchester-based musicians Space Afrika. Their connection to similar DJs like Burial and Teresa Winter—whose electronic samples and wafty vocals make reference to the UK’s own history of industrial decline and capitalist acceleration—frames Pacific Club within an expanding artistic movement determined to retrieve working-class histories that have been side-lined by national projects. With Pacific Club and the films he has made since, Noujaïm offers those whose history has been silenced the chance to speak up.


Valentin Noujaïm was born in France in 1991. He studied screenwriting at La Fémis in Paris and was a guest student at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, Germany. His films explore power dynamics, often blending 16mm film, archival elements, and special effects. Noujaïm’s work has been selected at CPH:DOX, Visions du Réel, IFFR, DocsLisboa, and many more acclaimed documentary festivals. The second installment in his La Défense trilogy, To Exist Under Permanent Suspicion, follows a woman haunted by the business district’s skyscrapers and premiered at IFFR earlier this year. He is currently finishing Demons to Diamonds—the final chapter in the trilogy—as well as gearing up for his first institutional solo show next year.


Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Courtesy of Oyster Films.