“The Red Island”, by Robin Campillo: a childhood in Madagascar in the 1970s


Scene from


Six years ago, Robin Campillo won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for 120 beats per minuteimmediately renamed, in a general surge of love, “120 BPM”. Alternately committed and romantic, chilling and burning, tragic and funny, the film revisited the director’s militant past within Act Up-Paris, against the stigmatization of AIDS in the deadliest years when medicine could not provide only palliative care. We only talked about this band of tough young people, and everyone woke up “actupian”.

That is to say that a great expectation preceded the release of The Red Island, the filmmaker’s fourth feature film, which this time goes back further in his personal history. Focus on his childhood in Madagascar, after Morocco and Algeria, according to the transfers of his father non-commissioned officer in the French army. Unlike in 120 BPMwhich he defined as a “film without exteriority”confined to university halls, hospitals and Sean and Nathan’s apartment, it is open to all winds, but within a narrow perimeter, around the military base.

Early 1970s. A large table is set in a garden. Children and adults frolic. All, with one exception, savor the advantages of the exotic change of scenery. It has already been a little over ten years since the independence of Madagascar was proclaimed, following an agreement signed with France, but the hegemony of the former colonial power is still palpable. French soldiers and their families cling to a past that still gives them privileges. But for how long ?

poetic organization

Despite beautiful images – between heaven and earth, somewhere between Mr Hulot and an apocalypse film – and the music of Arnaud Rebotini which poses the threat of a great return to France, the project stumbles on practical details which sabotage its ambitions. Starting with the choice of a 25-year-old actress to play the mother of a boy who already has a mustache (despite a chestnut hair color that distances her from the candid young girls she has often played, Nadia Tereszkiewicz cannot not work miracles).

But the essential problem is a question of point of view. The whole story is told through the eyes of Thomas, a child who observes many things without understanding anything. It’s annoying to constantly rely on this neat little being, wise as a picture, who spends his time under a table, behind a door and especially in a trunk. It is therefore between two wooden slats that the viewer is invited to see that there is something wrong in the world of dad and mom: a pleasant but annoying expatriate life. Starting with the gentleman who asks his Malagasy gardener to come back later, simply excluding him from the frame.

You have 34.38% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *