Official Selection of the LUX Prize 2011 includes Robert Guédiguian's film Les neiges du Kilimandjaro. Although he has lost his job, Michel lives happily with Marie-Claire. This happiness is shattered-aong when young men hit them, tie them up, pull off their wedding rings and make off with their credit cards. They find out the attack was organised by a young worker made redundant at the same time as Michel. They discover that their attacker, Christophe, only acted out of necessity: he lives alone with his two little brothers and does an admirable job of looking after them. Michel and Marie-Claire decide to look after the little brothers while they wait for Christophe to be released from prison.
Les neiges du Kilimanjaro has been selected at the Un Certain Regard line-up, which is part of the official selection for the 64th Cannes Film Festival (May 11-22, 2011).
Inspired by the Victor Hugo poem "Poor People", the film exudes a cheerful nostalgia, full of simple emotions and an idealism depicted in the difficulties of generational conflict. Pointing a mirror (and a more complex reflection that initially seems) on today’s loss of the spirit of solidarity and class conscience, Guédigiuan continues to make resistance films, in a world in which the poor fight amongst themselves.
Les neiges du Kilimanjaro begins with a very particular lottery. In a port company, the names of 20 union members’ names to be dismissed are pulled out at random. One of the 20 is Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), a pillar of the General Confederation of Labour union (CGT) who could have saved himself easily, as his friend, brother-in-law and co-worker Raoul points out. But Michel, who often quotes [French socialist leader] Jean Jaurès, doesn’t want to. "There are days in which it’s difficult to be a hero”, says his wife Marie-Claire (Ariane Ascaride) sweetly when he hears the news.
Though he’s unemployed at 50, Michel has no reason to worry. He owns various homes, and lives off the rent he collects, he goes to the beach with his children, his family is always present and he’s still very much in love with with Marie-Claire, who works as a cleaning woman.
Their happiness is celebrated with a party and a collective gift made to the couple: a one-week trip to Kilimanjaro. But one night everything falls apart: two armed, masked, violent robbers break into the house of Michel and Marie-Claire as they’re playing cards with Raoul and his wife Denise (Maryline Canto). The money and the tickets are stolen.
This traumatic event will be revelatory. Michel discovers that one of the young robbers (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) was part of the 20 who were fired at the beginning of the film. He reports him to the police, and then slowly comes to realise that that he was simply robbed by a man poorer than himself and that his own youthful ideals have been forgotten by himself, his loved ones and today’s young people. Going against the current, he will do everything with Marie-Claire to regain his self-esteem and reignite the flames of solidarity.
The Mediterranean charm captured wonderfully by the wide, open images of the ship-filled port and a quality cast (which includes Anaïs Demoustier, Adrien Jolivet and Karole Rocher) are the strong points of The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The director’s humanity does the rest, and it doesn’t matter if the screenplay takes some shortcuts and certain sequences are emotionally forced. A style that is in keeping with Guédiguian’s Marseilles temperament and combative spirit, summarised by a banner that appears at the beginning of the film: "The fight is a class fight".
Guédiguian was selected in competition at Berlin in 2005 with The Last Mitterrand and in 2008 with Lady Jane, and at Cannes in 2002 with Marie-Jo and Her 2 Lovers). His other films include Marius and Jeannette (1997) and The Town Is Quiet (2001).
Produced by Agat Films & Ex Nihilo, Les neiges du Kilimanjaro has received co-production support from France 3 Cinéma, pre-acquisitions from Canal + and Ciné Cinéma, funding from the PACA region, and backing from Sofica Cofimage 22, Cinémage 5, La Banque Postale, Image 4 and Soficinéma 7. The film will be released in France by Diaphana, while international sales are being handled by Film Distribution.