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Foreign Oscar Entry Review: All God's Children (Toti Copiii Domnului)

Reviews
by Carlos Aguilar
December 14, 2013 8:13 PM
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Adrian Popovici's 'All God's Children'

All God's Children, Moldova's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. :None Yet. International Sales Agent: Artis Film


Located deep in the heart of Eastern Europe is Moldova, the continent’s poorest country. Landlocked between Romania and Ukraine the small troubled nation is afflicted by rampant corruption, separatist groups, and widespread unemployment. Combined, all of these unfortunate factors create the perfect playground for criminal organizations to thrive. Particularly prominent in this part of the world are the atrocities related to human trafficking in its many forms. Prostitution, child pornography, and organ harvesting have become profitable illegal industries due to the social decay and colluded authorities. Cleverly taking into account all the elements that form part of the notoriously problematic state of the country, Romanian-born director Adrian Popovici ’s latest feature All God's Children offers an intricate look at often overlooked issues not only in Moldova but across the globe.

Following several stories that intersect via innocent Pavalas (Emergian Cazac), a young boy living in an orphanage, the film dissects the different plans the adult characters have for him. His mother, Irina (Ina Surdu), left him behind when coerced into sexual slavery in Italy. After escaping her captors she returns to Moldova to presumably sell the boy to whoever will adopt him and pay her pimp enough money to regain her freedom. Irina recruits her friend Tatiana (Rodica Oanta), also forced into the prostitution business, and together they embark on a trip to Chisinau, the capital, to find Pavalas. Desperate to return to his mother, the abandoned child takes to the streets with a picture and asks if anyone has seen her. During his search he meets warm and loving Alina (Alina Turcanu) and her Canadian husband Peter (Michael Ironside), who immediately show interest in the boy as he reminds them of their own deceased son.

Adding to their already complex situation, the two women must cross through the communist breakaway state of Transnistria in order reach the city. There, they accidentally get involved in the suicide of a defecting soldier, an incident that delays their trip. Meanwhile, Bruno (Paolo Seganti), their ruthless Italian victimizer, arrives in Moldova looking to punish them. However, when Irina reveals her intentions, he exhorts her to see it through and give him his cut or he will find other uses for the boy in the black market.

On the other hand, after growing fond of the kid, Alina and Peter decide to adopt him, but they soon get caught up in the dishonest bureaucracy. Upon Irina’s return, Pavalas overhears his mother’s intent to give him up and decides to run way. With Peter now being helped by Interpol and heartless Bruno deranged with greed, what ensues is a race to find him involving all parties, in which the collateral damage will be devastating.

At the core of this denouncing drama is Pavalas, who serves as driving force for the plot, but whose destiny is in the hands of others. He has an honest heart, and in spite of the repeated neglect he remains loyal to his mother. Played with enchanting naturalism by first-time young actor Emergian Cazac, the character represents a state of purity that everyone is born into, but which gets contaminated by the way of the world. Depraved of better opportunities and tormented by extreme poverty, the citizens here must identify dishonesty and bribery as survival skills to make ends meet. Therefore, this creates a vicious circle for which the impoverished people cannot be blamed, and in which the wicked criminals revel.

Even with its noticeable imperfections, the film carries a powerful emotional resonance that is impossible to ignore. In a single audiovisual work, the director allows the viewer to see a land that has been wrongly forgotten and let to suffer by the West. It highlights the spirit of the Moldovan people while condemning the corrupt system, subtly demanding change for a population that deserves better.

Although concerned with the horrors of human trafficking the story revolves around the noble idea that, as the title implies, all human beings should get a chance at being happy. In a place that is incapable of providing such opportunity, this child becomes a symbol of hope and of the innocence that must be protected. Not only is this piece Moldova’s first ever submission for the Academy Awards, but also the country’s largest cinematic effort in its recent history. Furthermore, Popovici’s All God’s Children is an admirable and important accomplishment. Skillfully written and heartfelt, its mere existence constitutes a small miracle.

Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards


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