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France, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Jacques Fansten

Usually films with children are unbearable cute. Cross My Heart has nothing precocious about it.

In the provinces, a boy's mother drops dead. Out of a quite logical fear of falling into the hands of the French social services and being sent to an orphanage (it seems a father has never been invovled), he and his school mates keep the death a secret. What follows is their discovery of death, solidarity, and the hypocrisies of the adult world - as well as how easy it is to deceive it.

Even the well-meaning adults - teachers and parents of other children - have accepted given ideas about children and what constitutes happiness and health for them, and thus they become as dangerous as the close-minded and tyrannical adults who run the institutions, Cross My Head is the story of how society destroys a child through "saving" him.

The film has a hard and serous edge, but it is also a comedy - at times it is almost slapstick What do you do with a body when all you have is a grandfather's clock to bury it in?

Jacques Fansten has long made films with and about children; he gets superb and unselfconscious performances from his young cast. He avoids all the sentimental traps. His film is lean, and emotionally sure. "At first," says Fansten, "we auditioned hundreds of kids. But we ended up not using any of them. We only took children from the school where we filmed in the middle of France. They were perfect - so natural." The aim, he adds, was to make a film, "not about children, but with them, allowing them to speak and show their world through their own eyes".

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