As was the case with his previous film A Perdre la raison, 2012 a.k.a. Our Children about the Geneviève Lhermitte affair, the latest film by Belgian director Joachim Lafosse -of the excellent Ça rend heureux (2006) and Elève Libre (2008, Private Lessons)- is based on a highly publicised affair: the L’Arche de Zoé (Ark of Zoé) affair.
In the film a group of volunteer aid workers of the fictional NGO Move For Kids go to Chad to help children that are orphaned due to the Darfur conflict. The problem is that they are there under false pretenses. Instead of staying for a long period of time to provide food and education to the orphaned children they intend to be there for just a brief time only to select orphaned children under 5 and take them back to France to be fostered/adopted by French families who’ve financed the operation.
Lafosse could hardly have chosen a more interesting approach to tackle this subject matter. Instead of imposing his point of view he opted to show the motivations and actions of the different parties involved and leaves it up to the audience to draw their own conclusions. This results in a sublte and nuanced depiction that helps you on one hand to understand the idealism at the heart of the operation but on the other hand with increasing disbelief you get to witness the dangerous, naive, ill prepared and illegal nature of their undertaking. Where they start off by not conveying the local people of their true intentions (as they realise all to well that their plans are not completely on the up and up) they are becoming more and more self delusional.
The film has great performances by popular French actors lead by Vincent Lindon (Welcome, La Loi du Marché, … ), Louise Bourgoin (o.a. the underrated Je suis un soldat, 2015, … ) and actress/director Valerie Donzelli (La Guerre est declarée, 2011) and some Belgian actors as Jean-Henri Compère (a nice departure from his parts in the La Vie Sexuelle des Belges films by Jan Bucquoy) and Yannick Renier (brother of Jéremie Renier and Lafosse regular o.a. Nue Propriété, 2006 a.k.a. Private Property).
Most impressive/memorable perhaps was the unknown/first time actress Bintou Rimtobaye who plays the interpreter and serves as a kind of moral center of the film. Highly recommended.