Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Tori et Lokita / Tori and Lokita

Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne: Tori et Lokita (BE/FR 2022).

DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
COUNTRY: Belgium, France
YEAR: 2022
DURATION: 89 min
LANGUAGES: French / subtitled in English
ORIGINAL NAME: Tori et Lokita
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Subtitles in English
Festival premiere: 24 May 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
US festival premiere: 2 Sep 2022 Telluride Film Festival
Belgian premiere: 7 Sep 2022
Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 14 June 2023

Theme song: the Italian nursery rhyme "Alla fiera dell'est" ["At the Eastern Fair"], an adaptation of the Hebrew Passover song "Chad Gadya" (["One Little Goat"], first printed in 1590). There is an affinity with the English nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built" (first printed in 1797) (Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index type 2035). Angelo Branduardi's "Alla fiera dell'est" is from 1976.

Larry Gross (Telluride Film Festival 2022): "The refugees Tori (Pablo Schils) and Lokita (Joely Mbundu), a little boy and adolescent girl, have fled religious violence in Africa. After pretending to Belgian authorities they are brother and sister, in the hope of increasing their odds for legal working papers, their lie becomes the truth, as they fiercely protect each other while navigating a host of dangers. For 30 years, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, former Telluride tributees and eighttime prize winners at Cannes, have sustained and revitalized the cinematic tradition of humanistic, politically engaged neorealist filmmaking. Here, with rigor and without a trace of sentimentality, the Dardennes portray a society that ruthlessly exploits children while, simultaneously, inspiring us with the indisputable power of unconditional love. Through their careful direction, and the brilliant performances of Schils and Mbundu, we begin to believe that love can conquer all. " –LG (Belgium-France, 2022, 88m)  In person: Joely Mbundu" (Larry Gross, Telluride Film Festival 2022)

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2023): "The many films of the illustrious career of brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who captured Sodankylä in 2005 with their sympathetic natures, have already become so familiar to our festival audience that we know we can trust the Dardenne standard. Tori and Lokita does not disappoint: this is an even more ascetic film about immigration, children and youth – as experienced at the grass-roots level of the streets."

"We follow two paperless African refugees in Belgium; Tori, a young boy from Cameroon, and Lokita, a teenage girl from Benin. Their sibling-like bond of friendship helps them deal with everyday challenges in the midst of multi-front threats from petty crime and drug trade."

"It’s impressive how the Dardennes seem to know the multiple facets of their hometown Liège so thoroughly. One can’t help but admire the indomitable Tori and Lokita, as their stories wind up towards their shocking conclusions. There is no indulging in sentimentality, even though their kinship-affirming duets are endearing."

"Two-time winners of the Palme d’Or in Cannes, JEAN-PIERRE (b. 1951) and LUC (b. 1954) DARDENNE have always worked together, both as writers and directors, ”as one author with four eyes.” Without compromise, they have stayed true to their calling, starting in 1975 with social TV documentaries. In 1981, the Dardennes moved into fiction. Such accomplishments of their mature era as Le Promesse, Rosetta, The Son, The Child, The Silence of Lorna, The Kid with a Bike and Two Days, One Night have proved true Jonathan Rosenbaum’s characterization from years ago: “No one else in the world is at the moment making films as instinctively tuned into the life of the modern working class.
” Timo Malmi (MSFF 2023)

AA: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne switch to the thriller mode and the chase format in Tori and Lokita, a formidable account of two paperless African immigrants caught in the multiple trap of immigrant smuggling, illegal gig economy, drug traffic and prostitution. A central location is a huge clandestine cannabis greenhouse. Everything is recorded with neorealist objectivity, including the clueless efforts of the society to intervene. Tori and Lokita lie to them because it is a matter of life and death, and the insurmountable chasm of communication is a major theme of this remarkable movie. The heart of the film is the deep love between the children. They are not officially a brother and a sister, yet this is a story of true brotherhood and sisterhood. A haunting film of engrossing warmth and tenderness.

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