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CANNES 2022 Un Certain Regard

Review: Father and Soldier

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- CANNES 2022: Mathieu Vadepied plunges Omar Sy into the trenches of the First World War, as a father trying by any means necessary to extract his son forcibly enlisted in Senegal

Review: Father and Soldier
Omar Sy in Father and Soldier

"No matter what happens, we don't split up." What are such words worth on the verge of having to throw yourself into gunfire in a no-man's-land that keeps filling up with dead bodies under the random fire of the falling shells? What is the value of this promise from a father to his son when they are trapped in the madness of the war that came to take them in 1917 in the depths of their native Senegal? Revisiting, from a completely different angle and during another world conflict, the subject of Africans from the colonies incorporated into the French army, which was tackled by Days of Glory [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jean Bréhat
interview: Rachid Bouchareb
film profile
]
in 2006, Mathieu Vadepied opened the Un Certain Regard program of the 75th Cannes Film Festival with Father and Soldier [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
.

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"We're going to make it". Bakary Diallo (Omar Sy sober and impeccable) is on his second failure to pull his son out of the clutches of forced induction into the French troops who round up young men in villages on the fringes of colonial lands to use as cannon fodder in the trenches of World War I. Attempts to hide him fail, so Bakary enlists under a false identity, hiding his family connection to Thierno (Alassane Diong) and, before the neo-soldiers embark for France, it's a failed escape that sends father and son straight to the hole, in a premonitory cage underground.

Once on the front line, not far from a hill that the French and Germans keep taking back from each other at the rhythm of the decisions of their respective staffs and at the price of innumerable human losses, Bakary (who only understands Peul) continues to make plans to escape. But Thierno (who learned French at the "white school") falls under the sway of Lieutenant Chambreau (Jonas Bloquet) who aims for a military exploit to attract the attention of his father the general. Rising in rank, Thierno must now give orders to Bakary and, feeling himself becoming a man, refuses to listen to his father and gradually turns his back on his original culture. Who is protecting whom now? And how far will Bakary go to save Thierno against his will?

"Faster, faster", the script concocted by Mathieu Vadepied and Olivier Demangel moves along with a vengeance, centered around the two main characters and two secondary figures who are more sketched than explored. A film with a message about sacrifice (of a father for his son, of Africans for France), Father and Soldier does not bother with nuances, giving precedence to a narrative and visual efficiency that gives pride of place to Omar Sy. Although respectable, the film nevertheless occupies a rather surprising place in the Un Certain Regard selection (we would have preferred to see it out of competition), whose artistic line is supposedly much more demanding. Positioning it as an opener as well is therefore in itself a message from the Cannes Film Festival, on the one hand in memory of the Africans who have fallen for France and on the other hand in honor of the contemporary French world celebrity that Omar Sy has become.

Produced by Unité and Korokoro, Father and Soldier is co-produced by Gaumont (which also manages international sales), France 3 Cinéma, Mille Soleils and the Senegalese company Sypossible Africa.

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(Translated from French)


Photogallery 19/05/2022: Cannes 2022 - Tirailleurs

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Mathieu Vadepied, Omar Sy, Alassane Diong
© 2022 Fabrizio de Gennaro for Cineuropa - fadege.it, @fadege.it

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