TIFF: A mother on trial at ‘Saint Omer’ – Blog

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By Abe Friedtanzer

Last week, France narrowed its list of Oscar contenders to five. Three of them performed at TIFF – A nice morning, Memories of Parisand Saint Omer. The last of them has the advantage at the moment thanks to its two awards at the Venice Film Festival. It’s a tough, focused drama that deals with motherhood, national identity, and justice in France…

The story begins with Rama (Kayije Kagame), a newly pregnant novelist. After some interaction with her family, the story cuts to the trial she attends, where a Senegalese immigrant, Laurence (Guslagie Malanda), is accused of leaving her fifteen-month-old daughter by the ocean to be taken away by the tide. . As the judge relays the evidence and asks her questions, Laurence does not deny what happened, but also cannot offer any explanation as to why she did it, expressing that she hopes the trial can answer it.

It’s not typical courtroom drama in that every person speaking does so without interruption, and there are few indications of sensationalism. It’s a very frontal experience, in which the camera only occasionally moves away from the enclosure to show someone watching, like Rama or Laurence’s mother, watching desperately from the front row. Rama having her own reservations about becoming a mother is not helped by what she witnesses, and she replaces the audience as someone unsure of Laurence’s authenticity but fully aware that there is no option. for a good resolution.

Saint Omer marks the narrative debut of established documentarian Alice Diop. It contains clear traces of the non-fiction format, though it feels crisp and polished in a way that documentary often doesn’t. The use of transcripts from a real case to provide some of the dialogue nonetheless makes it feel like a living, breathing story, one that has added weight due to Rama’s presence as observer, drawing inspiration from everything. she learns Laurence. Just as there are no definitive or satisfying answers to be found during the trial, the film presents some as well, but its direct portrayal of dissecting one person’s complicated life is haunting and resounding. B+

Saint Omer is projected into the Category Special Presentations at TIFF.

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