Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Jean-Pierre Sinapi’s brittle, funky comedy is without a doubt the most no-nonsense, bracingly bolshy film about disability yet made. It’s set in a home for the disabled, where 50-year-old former activist René is the despair of his new young carer Julie. Enraged by life in a wheelchair, René demands the chance to make love again, and Julie finds herself exploring the hard shoulder of the Route Nationale 7 to recruit a likely prostitute.
René’s exploits soon transform the whole community, including a wheelchair-racing Clash fan and a young gay Muslim with a Johnny Halliday fixation who is attempting an uneasy conversion to Catholicism.
Sinapi’s film is shot digitally, which at once gives it a crisply no-nonsense docudrama feel. But the mobility of the new camcorder technology also becomes a metaphor for the hard-won mobility of its characters – a militant gesture for a militant film which has more than a touch of Mike Leigh humour about it. Sinapi’s film knocks down more than one preconception – not just about disability, but about sexuality, religion, and politics too. The crisp sparring between Nadia Kaci and Olivier Gourmet (known for his roles in the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta and The Promise) is just part of the pleasure of this vibrant, provocative piece. — Jonathan Romney, London Film Festival 2000.
Sinapi confronts the sexuality of the handicapped with a rare frankness and good humour that has commended itself to the public and critics alike. His movie picked up the audience prizes at San Sebastian and Berlin last year, and at the London Film Festival it won the International Critics prize and the Satyajit Ray Award…
Shot on digital video, it has the texture of a documentary and, in fact, a number of the supporting cast are disabled people, though in some cases acting as if they have different disabilities from their own… The movie ends before some of the long-term problems can be confronted, and its tone is perfectly expressed in the sight of the priest and the whore jiving together at the home’s New Year’s Eve 2000 party, as if Christ and Mary Magdalene had taken to the dance floor. But it’s a wonderfully warm, funny picture, full of generosity and goodwill, and very well acted. — Philip French,The Observer, 1/4/01