Presented in the Man and His Environment section, Kenneth Elvebakk's Ballet Boys " (Norway) is a pretty good documentary that follows three teenaged male dancers-in-the-making, facing pressure from parents and teachers alike as they prepare for the international ballet competition that may (or may not) launch their careers. To quote the Festival catalogue, the film "takes you through disappointments, victories, forging of friendship, first loves, doubt, faith, growing apart from each other, finding your own way and own ambitions, (…) all mixed with the beautiful expression of ballet."
Obviously, the director is a fan of Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliott - he says so himself – but he instinctively knows when to stay out of the way, observing and, most importantly, listening. No wonder the kids trust him.
Co-produced by Spain, Portugal and Estonia, and focusing on two boys from Mali, Miguel Alcantud's Black Diamonds (Official Selection) is much harsher. We are talking football here, and more precisely, the business side of it that won't hesitate to engage in the trading of promising young players from African countries taken from home, at great cost to their families, with promises of hitting the jackpot in Europe.
Once there, the kids are treated like cattle by talents scouts and unscrupulous agents, sold and resold to small clubs all over Europe. If they deliver, they may, just may, get into a club (however small, in whichever division), but not until they reach the legal age to be hired – read: years from now. If they don't, it's off to the slaughterhouse, as it were, for they will be sent back home where their relatives and friends will treat them with the utmost contempt. (Don't get me started on football as a religion).
Fiction, as opposed to investigative reporting, is often a good way of exploring social and/or political situations. If rather didactic in its story-telling, Black Diamonds has the merit of addressing a subject that has rarely been dealt with by cinema – at least head on.
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