Written and Directed by Laura Bari
With a knowing wink, a small, blind 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 film itself – a documentary that infuses narrative ideas to create an indefinable hybrid and 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; he has 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 structure a film around his daily challenges and speak 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 herself 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 own creative style. It serves as a welcome reminder for all who see it that we too have imaginations that we may have turned our own blind eyes to 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 and forces us to open our eyes.