LFF 2019: The Valley – Review

Release date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 17 minutes, Director – Nuno Escudeiro

Documentary following the communities who help migrants on the French-Italian border and the actions of the authorities that try to stop them.

There’s a section of the dangerous mountain border of France and Italy where it seems that not even either country knows what area of land belongs to what country. Thousands of migrants and refugees travel through this valley region every year in the hope of finding safety and a new life, helped by the people who live on either side of the border to get to wherever they will be safest. However, the guidance and compassion that such figures give is often put to a stop by the local authorities, doing all they can, even if the actions of those featured in the film are perfectly legal, to put this to a stop.

One such figure, Cédric, has found himself arrested on six separate occasions for trying to help people achieve citizenship and rights. Cédric allows many of the migrants to take residence within his house while he works out what the best way of getting them to a better life is, he’s also the person most involved with the law and makes for a rather interesting focus when he’s on screen; making up some of the best moments that the film has to offer. When making note of the evolution of the law and the way that they act he claims “it isn’t a case of the law evolving, more that they know that they’re acting illegally”. He observes the law in his area and makes note of them, showing the actions they take to swerve their own rules. It’s hinted at that those who help the migrants put themselves in situations as dangerous as crossing the mountains when it comes to dealing with the police, “if you take care of people in trouble… Then you are not the same person anymore” in the eyes of the law.

When it comes to the other focuses of the film there does seem to be a slight imbalance, we get to know some more integral players better than others, or at times some seem to be left out for long periods of time until popping up again after almost being forgotten about. With a short run-time of 77 minutes such short time is split up between multiple people, meaning that sometimes there’s a struggle to properly connect with certain figures. Alongside one or two moments feeling slightly rushed, the first time we see a plan fail doesn’t have the impact the filmmakers may have intended due to not quite having the proper connection with the film at this early stage. Despite this there’s no denying the overall interest that the film creates, and it’s one that will surely encourage some form of debate, especially around thoughtful themes such as whether “we adapt quicker to restrictions of freedom than we do to freedom itself”

Amongst all the debate that the film could encourage and all its subjects have to say about the families and people they come across and help at the end of the day much of The Valley is simply about love and compassion. Caring for others and how often kindness and helping people is a forgotten fundamental principle. The disheartening nature of some of the events that the film presents makes this theme more prominent. When mixed with the simply followed themes of the film, and the short run-time, the final product is a fairly concise, interesting film. It does leave some gaps and it feels like there’s more to be explored; however what we do see says enough and treats the viewer as an equal, managing to successfully show them the handful of people and subjects that it covers and give them even just one thing to take away.

About caring for those around us as much as it’s about immigration and the law The Valley is a subtle, calm yet still slightly disheartening documentary that poses some interesting ideas and questions in its short run-time, even if it doesn’t always manage to form an impactful connection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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