TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! The latest offering from writer-director Ellie Foumbi, Our Father, The Devil, considers a fascinating and complex moral issue. What would you do if you came face to face with a monster from childhood? Atop that, what would you do if that monster changed careers and is now a Catholic Priest?
These are precisely the questions that plague our protagonist’s existence at a nursing home in France. Marie (Babetida Sadjo) works as the head chef and attends directly to the needs of her former instructor at culinary school, Jeanne Guyot (Martine Amisse), now a resident of the facility. Her life is simple, ordered, and quiet. That is until Father Patrick (Souleymane Sy Savane) arrives to minister to the residents. After experiencing a panic attack and fainting from seeing him, Marie confirms for herself with a quick internet search he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Warlord Sogo, who destroyed her family and enlisted her as a child soldier in his militia for some time.
Things come to a head when her boss does not provide her some leave time, and she finds herself in the nursing home’s kitchen with Father Patrick. Panicking, she hits him over the head with a frying pan and takes him hostage. Marie will spend large sequences of the film attempting to have Father Patrick reveal his true identity and culpability for destroying her teen years. Assuming, of course, he is, in fact, Sogo.
“…Marie confirms for herself…he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Warlord Sogo, who destroyed her family…”
What follows is a haunting, demented, and deep look into the psychology of people broken by lawless war in third-world countries. Our Father, The Devil shows how you don’t simply enlist in a militia as a child. Instead, you are kidnapped and forced to serve at the pleasure of psychopaths. As Marie struggles with her inner demons and the trauma she experienced, there are many questionable acts performed. Acts that themselves have a moral cost that must be accounted for. As Father Patrick confronts Marie in one damning scene, he reminds her that she, too, is running away from her true self.
Indeed, we witness this downward trajectory in terms of Marie’s consumption of beverages. At the start, she drinks coffee. By the time she meets Father Patrick, she switches to wine. After the confrontation and psychological brutality ensue, she starts drinking harder liquors. The French nationals in her life, which comprise her friends and found family, are completely unequipped to give her the aid or listening skills she needs. This only heightens the brutal sequences between Marie and the captive Father Patrick.
Our Father, The Devil is a deeply suspenseful and insightful film. In equal measure, it explores both the trauma inflicted on children in developing countries and what transpires when that damage is unresolved. I expect that starting out life as child soldiers results in broken adults who can only hurt others. This is a phenomenal, simmering, psychological thriller. If you’re one to delve deep into the psychology of the tormented and the pain they inflict on others, this will be a stunning film for you to check out.
Our Father, The Devil screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…deeply suspenseful and insightful..."