March 10, 2008
Reviewer: Monica Peck
Rating (out of 5): ****
This filial drama from writer/director Philippe Falardeau reveals the bizarre story of Belgian engineer Michel Roy who learns at age forty-one that he was adopted and actually born in a barn in rural Quebec. Played by Oliviér Gourmet (L'Enfant, Les Fils), Roy embarks on a journey to uncover his lost familial roots. Humor and poignancy intermix as Roy begins to learn the truth about his birth through a series of unlikely serendipities. Out of respect for your enjoyment of Falardeau's brilliantly woven divulgences, I dare not reveal anything more of the plot. Suffice it to say, this cinematic puzzle deserves more than one viewing, if only to admire the deft way Falardeau uncovers its many-layered secrets. It is no wonder that Congorama won a Genie for Best Screenplay from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television in 2008. As a doctor remarks in the movie, "It is all so unlikely, it can't be anything but true."
Filmed on location in Quebec and Belgium, Congorama is set against the struggle to develop an efficient electric car, while exploring issues of post-colonial cultural identities, corporate/government co-corruption, and the intricacies of a father/son relationship. Inter-cut with vintage footage from the 1958 Belgian World Fair and 1967 Belgian World Expo, this story of a 'Belgian-Congo tribe' is pushed along with brilliant performances by Québécois Paul Ahmarani (The Marsh), Michel Roy's journalist father Hervé Roy, played by the late Jean-Pierre Cassel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Claudia Tagbo (Ma vie n'est pas une comédie romantique), and young actor Arnaud Mouithys. Other notable performances include Lorraine Pintal and the village priest played by Gabriel Arcand (Post Mortem).
Congorama has won numerous awards since its release in 2007, including three Prix Jutra, the top prize for Québécois films. But, oddly, the film has not gained significant attention outside of Canadian and European film circles. Considering it had been six years since Falardeau's previous film, La Moitié Gauche du Frigo (The Left Side of the Fridge), perhaps this lack of accolades is due to a loss of career momentum. His current project, C'est pas moi je le jure!, an adaptation of a book by Bruno Herbert, anticipates theatrical release later this year.
Posted by cphillips at March 10, 2008 2:20 PM