by Antonio Cabello
Review of My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette, 2016) directed by Claude Barras. France.
Banquise (2006) and Chambre 69 (2012), respectively selected for the Cannes and Sitges film festivals, were early announcements of the overflowing visual universe – achieved via the use of stop-motion and underlined by the use of chromatic palette and depth manipulation – that is in full display in Claude Barras’ debut film: My Life as a Zucchini, an erstswhile Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Picture.
Based on A Zucchini’s Autobiography (by Gilles Paris), the succinct script was penned by three pairs of hands: Morgan Navarro, Germano Zullo and Céline Sciamma, her of coming-of-age stories Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014) fame. The story opens its doors into an orphanage that soon will become the point of focus for a group of kids who have lost their dear parents or have been literally abandoned there by their families.
Standing out from all of them is Courgette (lit. ‘Zucchini’), a timid nine-year-old coming from a family lacking in structure and torn apart by alcohol. He’s not the only one. The movie references drug use, alimony payments and the complicated immigration system to explain the pasts of each child. It does not shy away from controversy or social taboo.
Through its narrative power and modelic conceptualization, Barras’ miniature figures acquire autonomy and take to life. They make us laugh on the subject of childish riffraff, but also move us to tears by tackling innocence lost and the absence of familiar love. My Life as a Zucchini is patent evidence that there is no such thing as “small cinema” when it is done with sincerity and dignity, two values that permeate each and every character in this sweet surprise of a movie.
Antonio Cabello / Writer (Jaén, Spain – 1993) Producer and editor for Fremantlemedia Spain on TV shows, he studied journalism and audiovisual communication at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He also studied poetry, humanism and film criticism. Five years ago he founded Esencia Cine, for which he has covered the Cannes and San Sebastián film festivals. Life is time.