French actor Éric Caravaca made this documentary featurette to try and understand why his mother never spoke about the child who died before his family moved from Morocco to France in the mid-1960s. Christine, buried at age three in Casablanca, was the sister he never knew, yet instead of treasuring the little girl’s memory, her mother destroyed all the photos and home movies that were evidence of her existence. All that remains today is a vandalised gravestone in a barely visited Moroccan cemetery, a poignant image of a young life all-but erased, and a powerful starting point for this intriguing and affecting mystery.
Clearly Caravaca himself is struggling to understand his mother’s motivations, and threaded throughout the compact 67-minute running time are a series of filmed interviews utterly fraught with tension. The plot thickens with contradictory testimony from other sources, but contributing factors also begin to emerge, including the past stigma surrounding disability, and a determination that the family simply restarted from ground zero after moving to France and integrating into a new society.
Be warned, Caravaca delineates the cultural and historical context with some truly bracing archive footage, exposing past attitudes to ‘special’ children, and French atrocities during North African independence struggles. Yet the film’s abiding tone is one of deep compassion, slowly building to an affirmation that every single human life, however brief, is to be celebrated. The closing moments are both incredibly specific in easing the pain of one particular, troubled family and truly universal in their heart-rending resonance. A mini-marvel among recent docs.