Bouyain’s feature debut masterfully captures The Place in Between
by Natasha Senjanovic
Halfway through The Place in Between, main character Amy (Dorylia Calmel) observes passersby on the streets of Bobo (Burkina Faso), in a scene that encapsulates Sarah Bouyain’s delicate yet powerfully moving Venice Days film on displacement, loss and the inevitable pull of one’s roots. Amy is seeing and seeking out herself, the person she might have become had she not been sent to France as a child, to grow up in a well-off French family.
She has come to Burkina Faso to reconnect with her mother, whom she has not seen since she was eight, to find that her mother has left Burkina Faso, for England or Paris perhaps, her aunt (Blandine Yaméogo) tells her.
In a parallel story, Mariam (Assita Ouedraogo, of the Dardenne brothers’ The Promise), a Burkinabe woman, cleans offices in Paris and teaches Dioula (a Burkina language) to Esther (Nathalie Richard), with whom she starts a tentative friendship that is gently developed.
Both protagonists live suspended lives, in the space between two cultures. In Burkina, Amy comes up against a people she does not connect with and a language she cannot understand. In Paris, Mariam lives on the margins, unable to come to terms with her own past.
Switching back and forth between their stories, Bouyain, who herself is French-Burkinabe, tenderly captures the most minute moments that conceal and convey universes of pain and longing. Without ever resorting to folklore and exoticism in depicting either country.
The actresses carry this minimalist film that is magically also full of life. Calmel seamlessly conveys a determination and confusion that at times mistakenly comes across as arrogance. Ouedraogo’s restraint and very presence are breathtaking.
A majority French production by Athénaïse, The Place in Between was made for under €1m, in co-production with Abissia Productions (Burkina Faso) and with the participation of the National Film and Moving Image Centre, the Region Ile-de-France, Canal+, Vision Sud-Est and DDC.
It is handled internationally by Colifilms Diffusion, which will release the film in France in January or February 2011.
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