Les mains en l’air
France, 2010, 90 min
From its opening scene, time-stamped in the year 2067, Hands Up might be mistaken for a futuristic narrative. Reminiscing on an event in her childhood some 60 years earlier, Milana marvels at the archaic nature of classroom teaching in 2009 and can’t even recall who was president of France that year (a not-so-subtle clue to the filmmaker’s contempt for Nicolas Sarkozy). But this is very much a story of the present—and the past—when certain classes of French society suffer the consequences of government policy. For Milana at age 11, it is the threat of deportation for her and her family of undocumented Chechen immigrants living in Paris. Milana is one of thousands of children affected by current immigration policy—a source of fierce political debate and protest within the community. When Youssef, one of her tight-knit gang of friends, is suddenly deported with his family, the group of children fear Milana will be next. Brother and sister Blaise and Alice convince their earnest, left-leaning mother (a free-spirited but stressed-out Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, who, ironically, took this role just prior to becoming Sarkozy’s sister-in-law) to take Milana into their home to try to protect her. But when the perceived dangers continue to escalate, the kids hatch a meticulous plan to go into hiding, where they can insure Milana’s safety (and eat and do whatever they like). For days, their disappearance becomes a cause célèbre in the media, compelling the adult world to sit up, take notice and reconsider their priorities.