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Cannes Film Festival: 'Father and Soldier' shines a light on colonialism and imperialism in France

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Omar Sy at the Cannes Film Festival
Omar Sy at the Cannes Film Festival   -   Copyright  Daniel Cole/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Katy Dartford

The story of a young Senegalese man captured in his village in 1917 to serve alongside the French in World War One has conquered the public on its opening night at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Tirailleurs" features Omar Sy, star of the Netflix series Lupine, as young Thierno's (Alassane Diong) father,  Bakary Diallo, who also enlists in order to watch over his son.

The period drama, by first-time director Mathieu Vadepied is also known as 'Father and Soldier' and was shot using a hand-held camera.

It shows the horror of war for these men, and thousands of African fighters, who were torn from their native Africa to fight on the front line in a cold and unknown region, under the French uniform. 

"We don't have the same memory but we have the same story", said Sy, who is also co-producer of the film, at the opening night.

According to the festival's director Thierry Frémaux the film arrived late in the 'Une Certain Regard' category but "there are films like that which become obvious".

The "Un Certain Regard" selection presents 19 films, including for the first time at Cannes, a Pakistani feature.

Beyond the horror of war, the film puts the tormented relationship of a father and his son at the centre of the film. Diallo, who just wants to bring his boy home alive, and Thierno, who has been galvanized by military ambition.

This film also reminds us that, according to various sources, at least 30,000 African fighters died for France on the battlefields during the First World War.