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Recognition of Parentage, A profoundly humanist film: Taïeb Louhichi's "Child of the Sun"

Taïeb Louhichi's film "Child of the Sun" resonates with many present-day topics. Displaying an attentive sensitivity Louhichi touches on the questions of origin and identity, of emotional deprivation and need for recognition.
It is an epochal paradox that the mixing of races and cultures, in our contemporary world, leads to as many misunderstandings as it generates new fruitful encounters. We find this paradox in the context of emancipation where love, family and social relations apparently are becoming more open and free, but are often marked by new frustrations and new external or internal deformations; and we find it when, in our age of instant information and global communication, we witness ever more unbearable pain and distress due to loneliness or lack of recognition, often emphasizing the gap separating social classes and generations.
These observations and concerns are the themes of "Child of the Sun", yet the film never for one moment tries to teach us a lesson, from its abrupt opening to its end allowing for reconciliation.
"Child of the Sun" and its screenplay (written by the director), is both, a book and a film, reflecting upon the relationship between fiction and reality. A writer named Kateb, early sixties, disabled and tied to a wheel chair, recently published a novel entitled "Child of the Sun". The book fell into the hands of a young man in his twenties named Yanis who thinks he recognizes himself in the figure of the protagonist. The novel deals with a love affair typical of our time, strong and overwhelming at the beginning, but fading quickly and ending in separation before the birth of a child. Yanis identifies with the fatherless child of the novel and one day, looking for traces of his origin, breaks into the novelist's house that he believes to be vacant. He brings along his friends Sonia and Fafou, of whom we learn later that they too have reasons to consider themselves “orphans”, but whom Yanis fails to tell that they are trespassing. Things turn sour when suddenly Kateb appears in his wheelchair, surprising the three friends in the middle of enjoying the comforts of his beautiful house in La Marsa, trying on clothes and helping themselves to food from the refrigerator.
Kateb deals with the situation in a lordly fashion, partly because he is intrigued by Yanis' impetuosity and motivations. He discovers in the young man a kind of incarnation of the "son" of his novel who has stepped out of his fiction to demand justification from his author, and who later will drag him into a quest for his relationship with his own father.
Without ever turning didactic, "Child of the Sun" shows a situation both trivial and indicative of our times, and based on a human truth revealed through credible and engaging characters. By using elliptical flashbacks, and without going into too much detail, Taïeb Louhichi succeeds in bringing to life a sexagenarian with a beautiful face marked by years of experience, and three young people of today with their culture, their revolt, their fragility and their honesty.
Yanis, portrayed with vibrant intensity by Mabo Kouyaté (son of the great departed actor Sotiguy Kouyaté), represents, in the guise of a cool music DJ, the young man in need of father and family. He and his friends Sonia (Sarra Hanachi) and Fafou (Mohamed Mrad) form a trio of which the two secondary characters remain sketchy, with the central conflict evolving between Yanis and Kateb, superbly played by Hichem Rostom.
Initially confined to the elegant interiors of the novelist's villa, whose collection of paintings and beautiful objects illustrates the owner's refined tastes, the film then opens to the surrounding countryside and especially to the sea, whose presence is felt throughout from the first sequences to the end.
Nara Keo Kosal's camera reveals the story and sensitively approaches the protagonists through simple and clear framing, showing how initial anger slowly turns to understanding and tenderness. Assisted by Irmin Schmidt's magnificent melodic and highly lyrical score the director, literally and figuratively, creates his own music: the music of close-ups showing the radiant presence of Mabo Kouyaté and Hichem Rostom; the music of landscapes, of a marine cemetery in the rolling hills of the back country; the music of music itself, with the central scene opposing, and uniting, Yanis' hip hop and an incantation by Sory Kandia Kouyaté, taken from The Epic of Mandingo; the music of an Africa, recognized and loved, as we already saw and heard it in Taïeb Louhichi's "Shadow of the Earth".
To summarize, in the form of a movie that can appeal to all audiences, the Tunisian director managed to create a deeply resonant work, where reflection and artistic expression blend in harmony.

Jean-Louis Kuffer