Berlinale 2021: “The Fam”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Most teenagers do not follow the rules made by others; they create their own. They do what they want and whenever they want to. Even when they end up in an institution that’s supposed to shelter them, go through life and help them be better prepared for challenges, which sadly, they have already found themselves in.

“The Fam”, from writer and director Fred Baillif, follows a group of girls, Audrey (Anais Uldry), Novinha (Kassia Da costa), Preceiuse (Joyce Esther Ndayisenga), Justine (Charlie Areddy) and Alison (Amelie Tonsi), who are placed in a house where they are looked after by caseworkers. They neither have control over their temperament nor language; they freely talk about sex and sexual desires. All of them are willing to fight life, but do they have enough resources to overcome their demons?

The film starts with a loud and aggressive fight between the girls and the new intern in the house. We don’t know much about what happened nor what caused it. This is when we are introduced to Audrey, the first girl whose story we are about to learn. It is not a foster home. It is a place where young girls and boys can stay as refugees from the abuse occurring in their home caused by their parents. When Audrey was found having sexual intercourse with the 14-year-old boy, the police was called to the scene, putting the director of the facility, Lora, to accommodate the changes forced by the police.

Lora (Claudia Grob), perhaps, is one of the interesting characters in the film, who takes the girls’ wellbeing personally. However, when she loses her temper with one of the parents, she faces charges of her own. We then learn about her reasons, past, and the possible future with the institution she cares for as if it was her own home. All the stories told in the film are authentic, real and superbly played by the entire cast. Mostly starring non-professional actors, the film delivers authenticity as if it was happening to real people.

“How can you take all of us if you couldn’t take care of your own daughter?” is the most gut-punching line in the film, considering how shocking it was to the person being asked. It’s true, though; how can we be sure that the caseworker assigned can deliver their duty? How can they protect the most vulnerable when they can’t do the same in his or her own home? Yes, there is a thin line between home and work, duties and responsibilities, private and professional life. But that does not mean a chance should not be given to someone to prove they can and should prevail over their fear, failure and demons.

There is something unique about “The Fam”. It neither tries to deliver any message nor educate the audience. What it does is simple – provide guidance and shelter to the characters Fred Baillif creates. The beauty of it is that you connect with all of them. You will feel and care for each one of them. You will notice all the girls trying hard. Lora does, too. And just how it usually happens in real life, it all comes to one particular moment that defines our present and shape or future. Will the beautiful characters of “The Fam” succeed at it or not is a question larger than life itself, which you can count on this film to go beyond.

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