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The Man By The Shore Review

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Ayoung girl, Sarah is hidden in the attic by her gutsy gran Camille (the excellent Bissainthe) after her mum and dad flee abroad to escape Haiti's chop-'em-up regime. Undaunted by harassment from local top-dog macoute Janvier (Martial), Camille sets about smuggling her to safety.

★★★★

A touching portrait of disturbed kiddyhood mixed with stern political polemic, Peck's accomplished film centres on Haiti's special boot-boy militia, the notorious tontons macoutes, once depicted in the 1967 Burton/Taylor version of Graham Greene's The Comedians. Set in the early 1960s, the main thrust of the narrative has a young girl, Sarah (Zubar, wide of eyes and serious of teeth), hidden in the attic by her gutsy gran Camille (the excellent Bissainthe) after her mum and dad flee abroad to escape Haiti's chop-'em-up regime. Undaunted by harassment from local top-dog macoute Janvier (Martial), Camille sets about smuggling her to safety.

Sarah's memories of birthday parties, shooting practice, minding shop and making forbidden trips to the shore also snake through the film, a straightforward chronology being virtually non-existent. And all along her godfather (Patrick Rameau), who has his brains realigned by Janvier's thugs, stands as a symbolic witness to events and also the voice of resistance to the governmental madness which Haitian-born director Peck keeps bubbling as a backdrop.

With understated but focused characterisation and little upfront brutality, Peck cranks up the suspense as he brings together the jigsaw pieces of Sarah's mind to form a fuller picture. Some aspects of the story are frustratingly left dangling and Sarah's psychological scars can only be guessed at, but this is a gripping, beautifully composed and acted treatment of a terrifying era that's not over yet.

This is a gripping, beautifully composed and acted treatment of a terrifying era that's not over yet.