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BLAME IT ON VOLTAIRE

France, 2000 (MIFF 2001, International Panorama)

Director: Abdel Kechiche

In the first scenes of La Faute a Voltaire, Jallel, a young man from Tunisia who has come to France illegally is coached by a pair of uncles for his interview with an immigration officer. Tell them you're Algerian," they advise, and urge him to play to the image of France as a beacon of liberty, fraternity and equality, "the home of Voltaire and all that" "They think they invented liberty," says one uncle with more than a hint of sarcasm. "They love human rights." Jallel manages to elude police using a forged passport and stays alive by selling fruit and reading poetry in the Metro stations. He later falls into a marriage of convenience and has an attack of depression and ends up in a psychiatric hospital. However, this film is not as miserable as it sounds. Nor is it a film in the sociological sense about the condition of immigrants in France, but something much more strange and valuable Jallel has a handsome, sensitive face and a gentle unassuming manner that draws people to him. Jallel's genuine chivalry blurs some of the harder, more interesting edges of his personality. Director Abdel Kechiche last year scooped two prizes at the 2000 Venice Film Festival as well as numerous accolades in his own country.

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