line between humanitarianism and human trafficking is hardly what you would
call “fine.” there is a big, fat demarcation there. Yet somehow the NGO Zoe’s
Ark still had trouble keeping on the right side. Their “enthusiastic” efforts
to place orphans with French families remains controversial in both Chad and
France. Their fictional analog, Move for People, will get some of benefit of
the doubt. Even so, the paving on road to Hell is still the same as it ever
was. Even if they had good intentions, they certainly make an appalling mess of
things in Joachim Lafosse’s The White
screens during the 2016 San Francisco International Film Festival.
Move for People’s Jacques Arnault arrives in-country, his top priorities are “acquiring”
orphans five-years-old or younger from the surrounding village chiefs and
securing air transportation out of the country. It almost seems like he
foresees a need to leave in a hurry. Nevertheless, he has approved the presence
of an embedded journalist to document their work. Of course, he neglected to
tell her the organization is facing an official investigation in France. That
little tidbit she learns from her editor after settling in at the NGO’s
irony (really, one of several) is Arnault’s scheme would not be so bad if the
chief’s more scrupulously followed their instructions. Unfortunately, we soon
suspect many parents have been convinced to give up their children so they can
receive medical treatment and an education, with the expectation they can
readily be visited.
plenty of blame to go around in this ripped-from-the-headlines morality play,
starting with the NGO, but also including the chiefs and villagers, as well as
the journalist who largely succumbs to Arnault’s gruff charm. He is played by
Vincent Lindon, so it is hard to judge her too harshly. What is really shocking
is how true-to-life the narrative is. Frankly, White Knights could be used as an infomercial for Guidestar and
other non-profit watchdogs.
his thing, blustering and bullying those who start to doubt, while tearing up
when talking to prospective adoptive parents on the phone. The duality of his persona
well suits Lafosse’s equivocal tone. Even when the bottom completely falls out
of Move for People’s scheme, it is still hard to judge their intentions with certainty.
White Knights is the sort of ensemble piece
that is best served by actors blending in rather than standing out. In that
respect, it is remarkable to see Louise Bourgoin (so glamorous in The Girl from Monaco) disappear into the
role of Laura Turine, Arnault’s ardent worker bee deputy. However, Reda Kateb
brings some edge as their fixer, Xavier Lipert.
Even with the prominent names attached to White Knights, its jaundiced view of NGO do-goodery will not likely
endear it critics and art-house programmers. It is just too subtle and
challenging. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing simplistic about it. Recommended
for Francophiles and internationalist skeptics, White Knights screens tomorrow (4/25), Wednesday (4/27), and Friday
(4/29), as part of this year’s SFIFF.
Labels: Belgian Cinema, SFIFF '16, Vincent Lindon