If a feature film were to be made about your family, you might hope it wouldn’t be a tense police procedural. The Halimis, Parisian Jews of Moroccan descent, do not have that particular luxury. The 1986 kidnapping and torture of 24-year-old Ilan Halimi by a suburban gang called the Barbarians became a cause célèbre after the fact because of the nature of the crime. This retelling, featuring a top-notch cast (Pascal Elbé, focuses in on the panicked and grieving family; the police team whose efforts are increasingly stymied by their assumptions; and the ransom calls that are the detectives’ only clue to the kidnappers’ psychology. Ruth Halimi has another clue, one that the authorities are slow, too slow, to recognize: The kidnappers targeted her hapless son as a Jew, on the assumption that Jews have money. Veteran French director Alexandre Arcady is himself an Algerian-born Jew who emigrated at the age of 15. In his skilled hands this story based on Ruth Halimi’s book gains not only gravity—the inexorable pull of expert craftsmanship as the crime and its multifarious impact unfold—but gravitas, in the director’s understanding of both the intimate horror and the larger meaning of the act.
United States Premiere