Baby blues

MY FRIEND VIC­TO­RIA, drama, not rated, in French with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES - — Priyanka Ku­mar

My Friend Vic­to­ria is the kind of film you wish would get made more of­ten, show­ing in­ter­ra­cial France in a way that is mat­ter-of-fact rather than bru­tal or sen­ti­men­tal­ized. The film tells a very hu­man story, which swells into a haunt­ing po­lit­i­cal state­ment.

What car­ries the film is the quiet dig­nity of Vic­to­ria (Gus­lagie Malanga). Vic­to­ria, a black girl who is be­ing raised by her aunt, spends a night at the lav­ish apart­ment of a white class­mate’s so­cial­ist fam­ily, the Savinets. That night, she feels pro­tected by the older son, Edouard (Alexis Loret), and the con­nec­tion stays with her; she walks by their build­ing when she can and thus watches the two Savinet broth­ers grow up. Af­ter Vic­to­ria’s aunt dies, a church mem­ber, Diouma (Elise Ak­aba) and her daugh­ter, Fanny (Na­dia Moussa), take Vic­to­ria in. Jean-Paul Civeyrac di­rects this film, which is based on a short story by Doris Less­ing, in the clas­sic French tra­di­tion of show­ing a film’s nar­ra­tor writ­ing in a diary and then con­tin­u­ing the film in voice-over nar­ra­tion (see Diary of a Coun­try Priest, 1951). There’s al­most a sub-genre of French movies (The In­touch­ables, 2011) about the charm­ing/com­plex friend­ship be­tween white and black char­ac­ters. So it’s refreshing here to have a black woman, Fanny, nar­rate the story of an­other black woman, Vic­to­ria.

As a young woman, Vic­to­ria works at a record store where she runs into her old class­mate Thomas Savinet (Pierre An­drau). They have a sum­mer re­la­tion­ship be­fore he leaves for the U.S. Af­ter Thomas has left, Vic­to­ria finds out she is preg­nant and wants to keep the baby. This is an episodic film: Vic­to­ria has her daugh­ter, Marie (Maylina Di­agne), and then she gets mar­ried to a black man and has a baby boy. A few years later, Vic­to­ria de­cides to tell Thomas about the ex­is­tence of their bira­cial child. The Savinet fam­ily’s re­ac­tion is ini­tially awk­ward, even hu­mil­i­at­ing: The older brother Edouard, whom Vic­to­ria once ad­mired, is now a world-weary news­pa­per colum­nist who in­sists on a pa­ter­nity test. Af­ter the wrin­kles are smoothed over, how­ever, the fam­ily ab­sorbs seven-year-old Marie into the clan with some­thing ap­prox­i­mat­ing glee. Marie brings the Savinets all to­gether and makes them a fam­ily again. Vic­to­ria won­ders if she is los­ing her daugh­ter and senses that her black son won’t have the op­por­tu­ni­ties that are now of­fered to Marie.

Fanny’s brother says that “in France we have blacks, in Amer­ica they have Barack Obama.” France has, un­for­tu­nately, lagged be­hind in in­te­grat­ing its im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, so much so that this year, even Syr­ian refugees largely avoided France. Will France ever wel­come its im­mi­grants with any­where near as much warmth as the Savinet fam­ily shows Marie? This heart­warm­ing film does not broach tough ques­tions — though the story could have han­dled more com­plex­ity — but it does move the dis­cus­sion of race and class in the right di­rec­tion.

Sup­port sys­tem: Na­dia Moussa, Maylina Di­agne, and Gus­lagie Malanga

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.