by Éric Barbier
(SMALL COUNTRY: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD)
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Gabriel, aged 10, lives in a comfortable ex-pat neighbourhood in Burundi, his “small country”. Gabriel is a normal kid, happy, carefree and having adventures with his friends and little sister. Then in 1993 tensions in neighbouring Rwanda spill over, threatening his family and his innocence.
Célestine Award - Helvetia French Film Festival (Switzerland, 2020)
Éric Barbier successfully and faithfully adapts Gaël Faye’s excellent novel, about the Rwandan genocide seen through the eyes of a mixed-race child from neighbouring Burundi. (…)
Éric Barbier manages to find the right narrative rhythm, taking the time to introduce the characters of his microcosm with simplicity before the challenges of the macrocosm progressively emerge (through the news on the radio and on TV, side stories, etc.) and its burning completely overwhelms an environment perceived at child height, in a patchy and increasingly direct way (violence, kept out of shot for a long time, finally materialises). A respectful approach to his literary model makes Small Country a vehicle both endearing and educational, a good example of great History clarified by the small one, and a sensitive (and widely accessible) perception of tragic events of which it is important to keep as many traces as possible in order to teach the depths of abysses and the virtues of resilience to those who didn’t know them.
Small Country is a short, powerful and important read, which taps both into the beautiful innocence of the human soul, and the violent depravity into which it can be dragged. It's a tribute to those lost, a lesson for those who remain, a cry for those who suffer, and a hope for our collective future, all wrapped in a short, powerful lyrical narrative. We can only hope that the more such books are read, the less they will need to be written.
— PopMatters (Review of Gaël Faye’s novel, upon which the movie is based)