The Red Island *
by Robin Campillo
Franco-Belgian-Malgache film, 1h57
Madagascar, early 1970s. On the air base 181 of Ivato where more than ten years after the independence of the island the French soldiers still ensure a strategic presence, Thomas, 10 years old, lives with his family the last fires of the colonial illusion. His father, a non-commissioned officer, was appointed there after Morocco and Algeria in search of a golden exile which is already no more than a survival of a now buried world. But her parents act as if nothing had changed, for fear of confronting a reality to which they no longer belong.
A film reduced to its backdrop
Six years after the success of 120 beats per minute, Robin Campillo returns with this autobiographical film, told through the eyes of a child who will see his “lost paradise” disappear at the same time as the couple formed by his parents. From his observation post, hidden in a wooden cabin or behind doors and windows, he observes the adults with his innocent gaze. Hence an extremely sensory story, punctuated by the daydreams and fantasies of this little boy who imagines himself as a Fantômette and transforms the gravel of the alley leading to the officers’ mess into so many mosaics of precious stones.
Visually inventive, magnificently interpreted by the couple Nadia Tereszkiewicz – Quim Gutierrez as well as by Charlie Vauselle in the role of Tom, the film remains however reduced to its backdrop. We follow with a distant gaze this succession of scenes with a languid rhythm, from which the Malagasy are voluntarily absent or only appear in the background. Until the focus is on two of them, invisible grassroots workers, when a second revolution begins to rumble in the country, accelerating the departure of the French. They join the flow of the country’s youth seeking to build a future for themselves. There was undoubtedly the promise of another film, doing justice to the local population and its aspirations. It will not be held, and the scene remains confined to an essentially symbolic function.