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FILMS / REVIEWS France / Switzerland

Review: Far From You I Grew


- Marie Dumora continues her exploration of a fascinating film terrain with her 5th documentary in almost 20 years, focused on one same family, which has been awarded Cannes’ ACID selection label

Review: Far From You I Grew

In 2001, Marie Dumora unveiled her debut feature film Avec ou sans toi, a year-long immersion into a children’s home which centred on four children who’d been placed there, including Belinda and Sabrina, two sisters aged 11 and 9 years old. In 2004, by way of Emmenez-moi, the director took an interest in a boyfriend of Belinda’s, before once again hooking up with Sabrina, who had become a young mum at the age of 15, in 2010’s Je voudrais aimer personne. And then in 2018, she retraced three stages in the younger sister’s existence (occurring at 9, 16 and 23 years of age) in Belinda [+see also:
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. It’s a fascinating Boyhood-style documentary about a Yemeni family from the east of France, both novel-like and terribly realistic in its depiction of the near impossibility of escaping the vice-like grip of social determinism and marginalisation, which is continuing and deepening its exploration by way of Far From You I Grew, a film screened in a world premiere in Paris last weekend at the Louxor cinema, as part of ACID’s "Cannes Outside the Walls" line-up (read our news).

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This time round, the main protagonist is Nicolas, Sabrina’s son, a 13-year-old teenager who was removed from his mother and placed in a children’s home in his infancy and whom we discover in the film’s prologue, in a pushchair at his christening, in footage taken from Je voudrais aimer personne. In Schirmeck La Broque, in the Bas-Rhin department nestled in the heart of the Bruche Valley, this young man’s life is split between daily life at the home (his relationship with his youth workers, his school results, trips to the forest with his friend Saef – a Tunisian migrant who crossed the Mediterranean alone -, outings to the lake or to watch motor races, his long-distance crush, occasional attempts to run away, etc.) and regular meetings with his mum and two (soon to be three) half-sisters, as Sabrina has started a new life with a scrap merchant. Indeed, a complex decision looms on the horizon for this teen who’s averse to hurting anyone (at an age where questions and uncertainties already naturally abound): should he return home to live with a family that he has been separated from for 12 years?

A filmmaker of all things intimate, Marie Dumora excels in the art of allowing sequences to play out. Brushstroke by brushstroke, the overall portrait comes together, revolving around the emotional bond between a son and his mother, synonymous with familial and sociological baggage ("we haven’t done much with our lives", Sabrina confesses to Nicolas). It’s a burden which the director subtly lightens by never judging her characters, but instead observing them attentively with tenderness and without manipulating emotions. It’s a humble approach which overflows with humanity, confirms her perfect mastery of the form (Dumora frames the scenes – very well - herself and knows how to adjust the music where required) and results in a moving film and a welcome, further episode in a fascinating documentary saga that’s hard-hitting yet gentle, much like the song the recomposed family listens to: "ne regrette rien car tu le sais bien que dans une vie, il y a des soucis. J’ai l’espoir qu’un jour, la roue tournera" (litt. "don’t regret anything because you know that every life has its problems. I live in hope that things will turn around").

Produced by Les Films du Bélier and co-produced by Swiss firm Akka Films and French groups Studio Orlando, Digital District, Quark Productions and Gloria Films, Far From You I Grew will be released in France by Epicentre Films and is sold worldwide by English outfit Taskovski Films.

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(Translated from French)

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