Published May 05, 2009With a knowing wink, a small, sightless child opens the blinds and lets light into the room. It takes about five seconds to fall in love with this precocious six-year-old, Antoine Houang, in Montreal-based director Laura Bari's first film, Antoine. Subsequently, it takes just as little time to fall in love with the movie, a documentary that infuses narrative ideas to create an indefinable hybrid, and a moving experience.
Antoine, who is of Vietnamese descent, was born 100 days prematurely. He lives in Montreal with his parents and is fully integrated into the progressive school system. He has a number of friends; dreams of working in radio; and he can recount his first memories, those of his retinas detaching while he was still in his mother's womb.
Rather than simply structuring a film around his daily challenges and speaking with the people who surround him, Bari took a decidedly more playful approach. In Bari's world, Antoine is on a mission: he is a private detective and he must find the missing "Madame Rouski," a mystery that Bari concocted to give Antoine's imagination the game it was ready to play. Antoine dives right into the case and we gladly follow.
The height of Antoine's irony is that this film about blindness is visually stunning. Bari, who is Argentina-born and whose day job is as a schoolteacher, shot the film herself and fed off the imagination of her young subject to push her creative style. It serves as a welcome reminder that we too have imaginations, even if we may have turned a blind eye to them over time.
To this extent, this one little boy is an inspiration. He may not be able to see but he sees so much more than most, forcing us to open our eyes. (Atopia)