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CANNES 2022 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: Continental Drift (South)

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- CANNES 2022: Cheerfully blending comedy, political management of migrants and ties to be reforged between a mother and son, Lionel Baier continues his tetralogy on the building of Europe

Review: Continental Drift (South)
Isabelle Carré and Théodore Pellerin in Continental Drift (South)

"There’s no misery, no tragedy! People need a before and after effect." The Élysée’s envoy is growing increasingly irritated while preparing a visit by the French President and the German Chancellor to a migrant camp in Sicily, until he finally and delightedly finds a solution: a desperately shabby and restricted area on the perimeter where he will relocate and settle migrants, in tents, during the European tenors’ highly publicised trip. Judging by Continental Drift (South) [+see also:
trailer
interview: Lionel Baier
film profile
]
, presented at the 75th Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight (which is the third instalment of his four-part work on building Europe, after Stealth [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
in 2006 and Longwave [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lionel Baier
festival scope
film profile
]
in 2013) Swiss filmmaker Lionel Baier has clearly lost nothing of his caustic edge.

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For Nathalie (Isabelle Carré), a European Commission liaison officer based in Catania, this cynicism ("I want Oradour-sur-Glane") doesn’t come across too well ("betrayal isn’t part of my mission") on an island where drowned migrants are piling up fast along its coasts. But she’s a seasoned professional who has known the German emissary Ute (Ursina Lardi) for some time, so she acts accordingly. But our planner receives a huge surprise when she stumbles upon her son Albert (Théodore Pellerin) who has practically cut all ties with her since she left the family home (to live out her preferential love for women) when he was 12 years old. Now an anti-establishment rapper immersed in alternative activities, Albert is a very angry and resentful young man whose mother tries to get close to him, which is anything but easy and the source of numerous ups and downs in the sunny Sicilian hinterland.

Proceeding at a rather hectic pace in the wake of its protagonists who move around regularly, Continental Drift (South) jogs along energetically, flirting with comedy (and boasting several slapstick moments) to craft a simple yet highly personal approach: namely, creating links between a small story (a mother who sees her son bursting back into her life like a meteorite, colliding with the remorse of her maternal past and causing an emotional earthquake for both parties) and wider history, i.e. lying politicians who observe the Mediterranean migrant tragedy from afar and rewrite reality as it suits them best ("it’s not an image, it’s a place"), perspective on the past, and generational clashes ("it’s not children who should listen to their parents, it’s the other way around" for some, minimum standards for others). All this in a world where you have to accept your own imperfections before you can begin to understand others.

Continental Drift (South) is produced by Bandita Films in co-production with RTS and Les Films du Losange, who are also steering international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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