A young Cameroon madam with a motley crew of dispossessed kids takes a new recruit under her wings in “The Tree of Ghibet,” which deserves more applause for its intentions than for its execution. Pic was made by the Traveling Film School, the L.A.-based company of Amedeo D’Adamo and Nevina Satta, in collaboration with the street kids of Douala, the biggest city in Cameroon, with many playing versions of themselves. Simply from a human-rights angle, some fest action is likely.
Pic tells of 8-year-old DJ (Elisee Kounde), who is thrown out of a taxi by his aunt because he is “possessed.” (In some African countries, kids can be legally abandoned for this reason, per film’s six-minute closing crawl.) DJ becomes part of the glue-sniffing, cat-meat-eating clan of the feisty Ghibet (Corinne Kameny), whose HQ is a tree by the river and who prostitutes her young charges for money. Some zippy performances, notably by Kounde and Kameny, partially make up for a screenplay that is as rag-tag as the gang it depicts. Lensing oscillates between impressionistic and gritty. D’Adamo himself plays an unsavory tourist in the movie’s most disturbing scene.