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By Jamie Tipps | January 29, 2007

2007 SUNDANCE WORLD DRAMATIC COMPETITION FEATURE! It’s 1970 and the world is in a state of unrest, but Anna is more concerned with table manners and sleepovers than political upheaval. Firmly entrenched in the upper-middle class, the Parisian schoolgirl loves the trappings of wealth and culture. However, when her parents become radical activists, Anna’s comfortable lifestyle comes to an abrupt end.

Her father disappears suddenly for extended periods of time in order to help impoverished Chileans, and her mother works for hours behind closed doors collecting testimonials for her book on women’s rights. As if this isn’t bad enough, the family moves into a tiny apartment where strangers come and go in the middle of the night, and a string of refugees serve as makeshift nannies. Seriously disgruntled, Anna questions her parents’ rationale, but their vague and abstract explanations fail to register with her. Determined to fight them to the bone, she widens her insular view only when she sees the application of their beliefs in practical terms.

Watching the dawn of Anna’s political consciousness is a delight. Incredibly spirited, she doesn’t hesitate to challenge the ideologies of the various revolutionaries hanging around her kitchen. She is also smart enough to pick up on the metaphors and allegories contained in her nannies’ stories. It’s hard to find child actors who can carry the lead in a film, but as the main character, Nina Kervel gives a solid performance as she transforms from a spoiled brat into a compassionate person. Despite the seriousness of the subject, the movie is sweet and charming; it knows that audiences hate to be preached to and instead shows us—as it shows a Anna—why we should care about being humane.

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