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Cannes Film Festival - Reviews

Uncle Boonmee and Hors-la-Loi


A Thai director reveals his other-worldly style, and a Franco-Algerian film sparks controversey over its portrail of history.


Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul shows his unique style in Uncle Boonmee Who Can recall His Past Lives, with its sparse, quiet dialogue, cheeky humour, high grass, a smidgen of temple kitsch and his preoccupation with reincarnation.

Uncle Boonmee is dying. His late wife comes back to look after him, in clinical detail.

And his long-lost son returns as an unrecognisable creature. He journeys through the jungle to a cave where he was born in his first life.

Weerasethakul captures the beauty of nature and of life, above and below ground.

There’s controversy in some quarters in France over Rachid Bouchareb’s film Hors-la-Loi (Outside of the Law) over the way it renders one of the scenes taken from history. Bouchareb places the scene in question at the beginning of the film.

It shows the massacre at Sétif at the end of World War Two, during the repression by French soldiers of a march for independence.

Supporters of French veterans, who fought the Algerians in the war of independence that ensued, say that the film misrepresents the historical facts.

However it serves Bouchareb, as a means to show how the Algerian independence movement shifted to France via the imprisonment, in France, of one of the leaders, Albdelkader Souni, who is played convincingly by Sami Bouajila.

It’s true that he spends less time in showing the reprisal attacks in Algeria on French people living there. But this is not a documentary.

The controversial scene aside, Bouchareb makes reference to other historical facts of which the French are not proud, like the drowning of suspected FLN (Algerian freedom group) members in the Seine just outside the police headquarters in Paris.

Facts aside, this is an historical drama about the painful process of decolonialisation in the last century, revolving around the three main characters, the Souni brothers, and their mother.

Proving himself again as one of the important actors on the French scene, Roschdy Zem (best actor at Cannes in 2006 in Bouchareb’s Indigènes (Natives)) plays the elder brother Messaoud. Jamel Debbouze is the younger bandit brother, Saïd, who is shown not to have really been involved in the freedom fight. He’s more interested in boxing in the ring.

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