Sundance 2020 Review: “Binti” (2019) ★★★

© Bulletproof Cupid

Isn’t it much better to live in a free world with no borders? While the reality is far away from a fantasy world where, understandably, we have to be careful of who we let in but it still does not justify the unnecessary amount of stress and struggle many migrants go through on a daily basis. As we sit now on our comfortable chairs, there is someone getting deported. That someone is an individual who could help us make our country safer. In most cases, they are more educated, capable, and even more hard-working. So what stops us from thinking differently and be open-minded, be compassionate and kind?

Binti (Bebel Tshiani Baloji) and her father, Jovial (Baloji), have escaped Congo to end up in Belgium as undocumented immigrants. She is intelligent; her father is a writer, speaks French, and is a very genuine person. Binti, who runs her own vlog, keeps getting more followers. On the other hand, Elias (Mo Bakker), a Belgian boy has some ideas in his mind but is more concentrated on his mother, Christine’s (Joke Devynck) affair, with their neighbor Floris. As two little children run away from their home (one in a fear to get deported, another one as a protest), the two find each other and aim to change their surroundings for good.

Elias struggles in accepting his parents’ divorce and seeing his mother in Floris’ arm makes him angry. Looking at him, we know where the storyline might go but that predictability does not hurt the fact that this boy is truly special. As for Binti, she has many talents; she is good at changing her nightmarish world into a colorful fairy tale through her online vlog. She chases local celebrities, never stays away from her cell phone, and overall, she is a happy girl who deserves a life much better than the one she lives hiding from local authorities.

When her path crosses with Elias’ after escaping immigration officers, Christine allows Binti and her father to stay at her place for a while. During that time, the family gets closer to each other and learn who they are. And through them, we fall for Binti and Jovial for their simplicity, their eagerness to be happy, and why they are no different from any other person in the world. The only difference between Elias’ family and Binti’s is their legal status in Belgium and their treatment by immigration authorities.

Written and directed by Frederike Migom, “Binti” is a feel-good movie about love and compassion. As the film explores the immigration issues of Europe and what illegal immigrants go through, the film does not lose its humor as it offers that gentle touch of comedy through love and humanity this universe is lacking. As we learn a lot from this film, it shows the importance of not judging people by their status but rather what they can offer as new residents. And that’s what the system should look into rather than just signing papers to let go of people who are as good as Binti and Jovial and whose only fault is that they have not been born in the right place and time to be considered as deserving human beings.

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