Previously posted on the Renault Film Festival thread.
Holy Lola (2004)
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Starring Jacques Gamblin (LEnfer), Isabelle Carr (He Loves Me. He Loves Me Not)
An emotional rollercoaster of the trials and tribulations of a French couples efforts to adopt an orphan baby in Cambodia.
Monsoon season, a husband and wife arrive in Cambodia having completed reams of paperwork back home in order to be able to adopt a baby, they end up at a hotel full of similar couples some of whom have already been there several weeks waiting for their chance.
For two hours or so we follow them around visiting orphanages, small villages and facing a steady stream of bribery and corruption in their attempt to obtain the one thing they feel will make their lives complete.
Heartache, joy, disappointment, frustration, the emotions soar and dive as an opportunity ends in an empty promise. Babies often stolen from their mothers are offered for a price, a phone call from an orphanage will end in bitterness because another (usually American) couple have used large amounts of cash to jump the queue and have taken the child.
Even when they eventually manage to find a beautiful orphan baby girl already rejected by another couple, the endless paperwork and bribes needed to complete even the simplest of tasks leads to arguments and despair. Physically, emotionally and financially drained, you wonder will they ever be able to leave Cambodia with the child of their dreams?
Handheld camerawork and totally naturalistic acting gives the film an almost documentary feel, the emotional highs and lows are so perfectly played that you could easily believe this is all for real. How real couples can handle this sort of situation, the faith, love and fortitude needed must be incredible.
This is no travelogue, you get the non tourist Cambodia including a visit to a large open garbage tip where hundreds of people from very young children to the very old eke out an existence scrabbling through other peoples waste. You also see the wards in the orphanages of the babies nobody wants, babies with Aids etc.
A very good film but with a couple of minor flaws, you lose a sense of time, I honestly couldnt say how long the search for the baby took? This along with the follow up frustration of sorting out all the paperwork to be able to take the baby back to France, it could have been weeks or even months, I honestly havent got a clue. The constant dashing from here to there, from hotel to orphanage to village etc leaves you feeling lost and in a sense frustrated as to why, but that does in a sense draw you into the same emotional state as the couple as each trip they make ends in more and more frustration.
All in all, not your typical film but if it does pique your interest, it will grab you and drag you along on a literally dizzying ride. It is tough going but I felt it was more than worth it to for the amazing performances (especially the main couple) and to get a real sense of life in Cambodia.