A baby cries. The cry is heard by a dockworker walking by a cargo container in the French city of Le Havre. The container is in transition from Senegal to London. The dockworker calls the police. The police arrive, along with the press. The container is opened and light is thrown on 10 or so Africans (men, women, children). After the flash of a camera, a boy bolts out of the container, runs through the maze of red, blue, and orange containers, and enters the city illegally.
The African boy (Blondin Miguel) is found by a Frenchman, Marcel Marx (André Wilms), who shines shoes for a living, is at the twilight of his middle years, and has a wife in the hospital. Marx takes the boy to his small, clean apartment and hides him from the law. Soon, Marx's neighbors are helping the African boy—the women shower him with motherly looks, the men protect him from the mean neighborhood snitch. A band of old rockers reunite and throw a show to raise money for his trip to London. One police officer even stops another police officer from shooting the boy: "He is just a child!"
All of this is, of course, a fairy tale—the press materials explicitly label it as such. And it is here we find the greatness of this profoundly political movie (and one of my favorite movies of the year): A film about white French working-class people helping an illegal African immigrant is obviously, comically unrealistic. And what does this tell us about the world we actually live in? A world that sees a work of fiction about humans helping humans as nothing more than a fantasy is totally fallen. The joke is on us. Opens Fri Nov 11 at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.