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Life Is A Game Of Cards

Dutch documentarian Philippe de Pierpont's latest effort is an absorbing portrait of six personable Burundian street kids revisited at different stages prior to their shaky adulthood. Laid-back "Cards" lacks the drama necessary for theatrical play, but docu's quiet virtues will shine at nonfiction fests.

Dutch documentarian Philippe de Pierpont’s latest effort is an absorbing portrait of six personable Burundian street kids revisited at different stages prior to their shaky adulthood. In 1991, the pre-teens welcome Pierpont into their circle, the rigors of their precarious existence then secondary to their remarkable esprit de corps. Later, the effortless rapport between filmmaker and subjects allows the camera to serve as facilitator and finally as glue as the group reassembles to testify to its chronicler. Laid-back “Cards” lacks the drama necessary for theatrical play, but docu’s quiet virtues will shine at nonfiction fests.

The civil war in Burundi knocks a nine-year gap in Pierpont’s running coverage: When he returns in 2003, he finds the kids grown-up, but scattered and disillusioned. The leader and most dynamic of the bunch is now confined to a mental hospital, while the others toil in black-market trades or dead-end apprenticeships. Yet they possess a rare resiliency and integrity stronger than their circumstances. Paradoxically, the only youth to escape the streets, studying and residing at a Christian hostel, seems somehow diminished in his safe but sadly institutionalized surroundings.

Life Is A Game Of Cards

Belgium

Production: An ARTE France/Derives/Lapsus/RTBF//WIP production. Produced by Jean-Pierre, Luc Dardenne (Derives), Esther Hoffenberg (Lapsus). Directed, written by Philippe de Pierpont.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Gil Decamp, Alain Marcoen; editor, Philippe Boucq. Reviewed at MOMA -- Documentary Fortnight, New York, Feb. 14, 2005. Bantu, French dialogue. Running time: 70 MIN.

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