La Civil

Director Teodora Mihai / 2021 / Belgium,Romania

Co-produced by a who’s who of world cinema – including the Dardenne brothers, Christian Mungiu and Michel Franco – this vigilante drama centres on a mother who will do anything to get her kidnapped daughter back.

When teenage Laura is abducted by a local cartel, her mother, Cielo, scrapes up the ransom money with the help of her estranged husband, Gustavo. The cartel takes the cash – but doesn’t release Laura. The authorities, desensitised and under-resourced, won’t help, so Cielo takes matters into her own hands. Enter: an ordinary middle-aged mum turned militant avenger.

While this sounds like a gender-flipped Taken, Belgian-Romanian director Teodora Mihai and her Mexican co-writer, Habacuc Antonio De Rosario, based their powerful fiction debut on real stories of women’s disappearances in cartel-controlled northern Mexico – in particular, the true story of Miriam Rodríguez, who hunted down her daughter’s captors. Driven by a steely central performance from Arcelia Ramírez as Cielo, the formidable La Civil heads to MIFF straight from Cannes, where it received the Courage Prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

“Gripping … An authentic portrait of this dangerous world.” – Salon

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