This pic's place is between the fest circuit and French TV.

Debuting director Sarah Bouyain exhibits a sure hand with atmosphere and detail in “The Place in Between.” Unfortunately, this tale of two Burkina Faso refugees searching for each other after many years’ separation falls short in the storytelling, stretching a half-hour short’s worth of material to eventually tedious feature length. There’s enough talent on display to make Bouyain’s future worth watching, but this pic’s place is between the fest circuit and French TV.

At age 8, Amy (Dorylia Calmel) was abandoned by her unmarried mother, then adopted by a middle-class Parisian family consisting of loving mother Marie (Dominique Reymond) and kid brother Eliot (Jerome Senelas). Reaching adulthood, Amy returns to her homeland, to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, for the first time in more than a decade to search for her long-missing birth mother (she has no idea who her biological father is). She finds Aunt Acita (Blandine Yameogo), now with her own adoptive daughter (Nadine Kambou Yeri, lending some spark). But auntie claims no clue as to where her sister is, or why she left, though a hint of scandal lingers.

Meanwhile back in Paris, Burkina Faso emigre Mariam (Assita Ouedraogo) lives and works alone; after hours, she teaches Dioula to Esther (Nathalie Richard), a chic white-collar employee at the office Mariam cleans. Their tentative friendship becomes “Place’s” most involving strand, if only because it actually leads somewhere that thrusts our character understanding into a new light. While it’s not very difficult to connect the dots, Bouyain stops short of offering closure. This decision was presumably made in the name of tasteful artistic restraint, but this meandering pic could sorely use some narrative payoff.

Perfs and packaging are competent.

The Place in Between

France-Burkina Faso

Production

An Athenaise production in association with Abissia Prods. (International sales: Colifilms Diffusion, Paris.) Produced by Sophie Salbot. Co-producer, Sekou Traore. Directed by Sarah Bouyain. Screenplay, Bouyain, Gaelle Mace.

Crew

Camera (color), Nicolas Gaurin; editors, Valerie Loiseleux, Pascale Chavance; music, Sylvain Chauveau; production designers, Bill Mamadou Traore, Barbara Creutz-Pachiodi, Marie Le Garrec; costume designers, Martine Some, Creutz-Pachiodi; sound, Marianne Roussy, Cecile Chagnaud, Thierry Delor; assistant director, Pierre Senelas. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 9, 2010. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Dorylia Calmel, Assita Ouedraogo, Nathalie Richard, Blandine Yameogo, Nadine Kambou Yeri, Dominique Reymond, Djeneba Kone, Jerome Senelas. (French, Dioula dialogue)

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