ANTIGONE (Canada 2019) ***1/2
Directed by Sophie Deraspe
Two French language films involving police brutality (in these films, police opening fire causing riots) make this year nomination entries for their country’s Best Foreign Language Film entries. ANTIGONE is Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film. LES MISERABLES is France’s entry. Both films are quite different. The short list has at the time of writing not yet been announced.
ANTIGONE is an ambitious film adapted from the classic Greek tragedy.
ANTIGONE is the name of a Lebanese immigrant living in Montreal with her grandmother, sister and two brothers. The film begins with a dinner scene where the audience is introduced to each family member. Things look rosy for the new Canadian family. Antigone has a romantic fling with a white Canadian boy whose father is running for politics office.
Things take a turn one day when cops show up unexpectedly at a playground. One brother is shot and the other arrested. Because the arrested brother has got a record, he likely will be deported. Antigone having a clean record and not yet an adult figures she can pose as her brother and get him out of prison by pretending to be him. This she does. But nothing is what it seems.
By helping her brother escape from prison, Antigone confronts the authorities: the police, the judicial and penal system as well as the father of her friend Haemon. The brilliant teenage girl, on a spotless path so far, feels the noose tighten on her. But to man's law, she substitutes her own sense of justice, dictated by love and loyalty
Director Deraspe always has some new twist in the story, as the film progresses. Antigone discovers that the brothers are not as innocent as they seem. The arrested one is part of a local drug gang in which the shot brother held a high position. Antigone is arced with a dilemma. Family for citizenship? The film stresses both the importance of family as well as the need to lookout for oneself and not be bogged down by family. After all, it is one that is responsible for ones own life. The decision Antigone takes is revealed in the film’s final shot.
ANTIGONE is a rough watch and is meant to be so. It is a film that reveals the hardship of immigration in an extremely cruel world. But director Deraspe shows that there is hope. There is always good people out there. The good people out there in this film turns out to be Antigone’s white boyfriend’s father who goes out of his way to do the right thing and earn back the respect of his son.
ANTIGONE is a film deserving of the distinguished honour of being selected as Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. But LES MISERABLES is the better picture as it is more spectacular and daring in its storytelling, taking more risk than ANTIGONE does. Still ANTIGONE plays more with conflicting raw emotions. ANTIGONE starts off slow, but it hits boiling level pretty fast. Definitely worth a look, the film went on to win the prize of Best Canadian Feature at the last Toronto International Film Festival.