France Is Our Mother Country
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France Is Our Mother Country
IDFA 2015

France Is Our Mother Country

La France est notre patrie
Rithy Panh
France, Cambodia
74 min
Dutch Premiere
Festival history
Echoes of dance music resound, accompanying images of an overgrown ruin. Then we see silent black-and-white footage of dancing French people from the time of Cambodia’s occupation by France (1863-1953) and incorporation into the colonial empire of Indochina. Rithy Panh, who was nominated for an Oscar for , allows history’s voiceless to speak in this disturbing alternative history. He critically examines the French motherland’s “purely fraternal intentions” by re-editing silent propaganda films and their title cards. is a combined history lesson and cinematic collage on representation. A title card that reads “dedication to the mother country” is juxtaposed with images of Cambodian forced laborers flanked by their armed, white overseers. Unsettling sounds accompany images of semi-naked Cambodian women and tied-up livestock. In this way Panh illustrates how a land, culture and society were destroyed in the name of liberty, equality, fraternity and progress. When idyllic colonial life finally ends in a bloody war of independence, the original titles are replaced by Panh’s: “Open your eyes, young sons of France.” Then he returns to the beautiful ruins, where the jungle has started to recover.
Screening copy
    Catherine Dussart Production (CDP)
    Catherine Dussart Production (CDP)
World Sales
    Catherine Dussart Production (CDP)
    Catherine Dussart Production (CDP)