For the next couple days Hereford’s premier Centre for the Arts, The Courtyard is partaking in the nationwide French Film Festival UK event, bringing us rare films from across the Channel in true Art House style. The French Film Festival UK is in its 23rd year proving that French Cinema has a dedicated audience in the UK. I certainly noticed this last night at The Courtyard.
I attended the showing of Vie Sauvage (Wild Life), one of the more promising films coveted by the media. This film is the adaptation by Cédric Khan of 2010 book ‘Hors système, onze ans sous l’étoile de la liberté’ by Xavier Fortin, Okwari Fortin, Shahi’Yena Fortin and Laurence Vidal who share the story of their lives come film, Vie Sauvage, enlightening us on extremely delicate custody issues that often further tear families apart and social divides driven by a life based on ideologies.
There are two more films left in the festival line up, including tonight’s film Trois Souvenirs De Ma Jeunesse (My Golden Days), and tomorrow night’s closing film, A Trois On Y Va (All About them). They have packed out both nights so far; best to get tickets as early as possible. Regretfully, I was unable to attend the opening night film which included a wine and cheese tasting. To find out more and book tickets go to https://www.courtyard.org.uk/whats-on/french-film-festival-2015/
Vie Sauvage Synopsis
Gallic French Film director, Cédric Khan brings us Vie Sauvage, a heart breaking and complex true story of Nora, a mother whose 2 sons are kidnapped by their father Paco, a man equally devoted to his children. His traveller ideologies make like very difficult for the family and Nora no longer wishes to be rooted in the nomadic lifestyle Paco rigidly aheres to, wishing to assimilate with her sons back into society by escaping Paco’s stubborn grasp. The film is set in the picturesque French countryside embracing moments of the traveller lifestyle, but also highlights the cons of such an elemental existence.
Cédric Khan creates moments that move you, and at other times leaves you wondering how such a scenario can be true. The vacancy in the young actor’s eyes and lack of interest in their mother’s absence, leaves you to assume their father has brainwashed their young, impressionable minds. Rarely longing for their mother leaves an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Yet this story begins with momentum, dies down to focus more on romanticizing the traveller lifestyle… consisting of fleeing from the authorities after Nora presses kidnapping charges, and living off the grid in communes, then picks up again as the sons grow older and self-awareness is triggered by coming of age, love and the ideologies force fed by their father that have kept them isolated from the outside world.
Cédric Khan leaves you with a lump in your throat,longing for more of the story and hoping that the book may bring you relief. Uncertain of his choice in endings, you do feel some closure and wander home with a heart full of new emotions, and the realization that children are at the mercy of their parent’s ideologies, as well as, the heart breaking reality for them in such complex custodial battles.
Paco, portrayed by Mathieu Kassovitz seems to be internally driving himself to master ‘off the grid’ living and defying the hand that French Law has dealt him in the custody of his sons. He tends to be morose, but genuine in his affections for his sons.
In a letter to Nora you can acknowledge his victim mentality determined to defy the French legal system after being told that in French Law the mother has parental rights over the father. Paco’s love for his boys and lifestyle are evident. This film is slow burning in some parts, evokes questions on matters rarely brought to the surface that rattle cages…the type of film I truly enjoy. Mathieu Kassovitz is also well known for his character in the now French cult classic Amelie.
Nora is played brilliantly by Céline Salette whose presence in the film is sparse but not forgotten. She is emotional and present in her role. Her character is believable leaving you wishing there was more of her in the film.
Thomas (Tara Jay Bangalter) who is half-brother to Tsali (David Gastou) and Okyesa (Sofiane Neveu), stays behind with his mother while the boys are quite willingly kidnapped by their father. They are lured by their father’s portrayal of a wild frontier, who seems to have the dominant hand over his sons and family. There is a lack of attachment that is unnerving in the young boys as their eyes are wide open with admiration for their father, but a lack of interest in their mother which is mentioned in the film.
The characters come to life when they grow older and the acting gets stronger. Osyaka (Jules Ritmanic) is the younger submissive brother, while Tsali played by French heart throb (Romain Depret) resembles his father’s strong willed manner. His character takes over as the dominant of the two brothers. The bond between them and admiration for their father is evident throughout the film.
This film enlightens us on the difficulties of split custody when adult relationships dissolve, often ones that are rushed such as Nora and Paco’s union; married in a beautiful scene after only knowing each other a few days.
The power struggle for the boys custody at the end of the relationship sits uncomfortably at the pit of your stomach bringing to light that children are often put into compromising positions and dragged through emotional rollercoasters with little say in the matter and leaving them at the mercy of their parents…definitely food for thought.
Review written by Michelle Cuadra – Creative Director, Hereford City Centric Retail and Culture Community