AFP dispatch dated 22/01/04

"Le pays des enfants perdus", Francis Girod’s first TV movie
by Josette MICHY

BIARRITZ, January 22 (AFP)- For his first TV-movie, screened as a sneak preview on Wednesday evening at the Festival international de programmes audiovisuels (FIPA) in Biarritz (Pyrénées-atlantiques), the director Francis Girod has aimed to make a strong impact with "Le pays des enfants perdus".
The film, due to be broadcast by France 3 in March, “doesn’t mince words”, warned Francis Girod, considering that it is “an example of what public television should be doing” on a social level.
The TV-film, with its humanist message, is based on real incidents: the displacement in the 1960s of children from the island of Reunion to the Creuse in order to give them a future and counteract the depopulation of this rural region.
With an original screenplay by Marc Pivois, a journalist with Libération, and Philippe Madral, "Le pays des enfants perdus" describes the distress of children like Isidore (14) and his sister Juliette (10), abandoned by their illiterate parents and transferred to a home in the Creuse before being entrusted to foster families.
Francis Girod (who has directed, among others, L’état sauvage La banquière and Le bon plaisir for the big screen) has chosen sobriety and excellent young actors like Mathieu Cham (Isidore) and Mélissa Loties (Juliette) to get his message across. Gérard Rinaldi plays a big-hearted farmer, a Communist mayor who is gradually able to win over Isidore, parted from his younger sister. During the film’s presentation, the actor underlined the “objectivity and integrity” that the director has brought to bear on such a dramatic subject.
The operation, originally designed to improve the lot of abandoned children, soon gets out of control. Brothers and sisters are separated and some children, after spending time in a home in France, end up being used as free labour on the farms. Many of them run away. Others, the lucky ones, will be adopted and allowed to study. But many of them are subjected to everyday racism and some will have trouble in finding their identity.
"Le pays des enfants perdus", produced by Flach Film, also deals with the difficulty that people have in accepting differences, along with the problems of integration, roots and culture. But this TV-film ends on a hopeful note. Isidore and Juliette, as adults, are reunited on Reunion.