Movie Short Review: ‘Harbor’

Review by David Ferguson

Greetings again from the darkness. As youngsters, most of us enjoyed school field trips. Escaping the sterile classroom environment to get out and see the real world was always a welcome event. Of course, we never thought about the added stress and challenges faced by teachers and escorts on those trips. For us it was an adventure.

French writer-director Paul Marques Duarte channeled his personal experience with a Sudanese boy in the refugee camp of Calais and developed this impactful short film that has much to say about inherent humanity in both youngsters and adults. Originally titled “Find Harbor for a Day”, the story was co-written by Blandine Jet.

A group of students is on the bus when the driver slams on the brakes to avoid hitting a 15 year old boy in the street. A teacher locks eyes with the boy as the bus proceeds to the port, where the class is to board a ferry for their trip from France to England. As the teachers round up the students for security checks, the youngster from the street reappears and tries to blend in with the group of students as they board the ferry. Teacher Adele quickly analyzes the situation and plops her own ball cap onto the boy’s head. Through all the confusion, the boy is allowed on the ferry. No words are exchanged between the teacher and the boy.

The teacher is played by well-known and well-respected French actress Marie Bunel, and the boy by N’Tarila Kouka. Clearly he’s a runaway migrant, so the pertinent question is … are the actions of the teacher heroic or foolish? Her fellow escort confronts her for putting them all at risk. The students figure out quickly what she has done and their reactions tell us much.
Duarte’s film has been very well received at film festivals, and although it’s filled with tension and expertly filmed and acted, its greatest value may be pushing us to question our own thoughts and reactions. What would we do in this situation … and why?

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