Belgian Laura Wandel’s first feature film Playground is a unique depiction of school bullying and as such has earned all the attention it has received since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section.
Firstly, Playground is shot from the viewpoint of the seven-year-old girl Nora. Secondly, the bullying is told in more detail and from the viewpoint of more people than usually. Thirdly, it should be seen as a positive thing that the filmmaker has not violently stretched this little people’s little story to a 90-minute feature but has managed to tell it in much less time.
The newcomer Nora is still looking for her place in the dynamics between children both in class and on the schoolyard. The “battlefield” set-up gets tense when Nora notices that her big brother Abel is being bullied by other boys and she doesn’t know what to do. Should she try to help him, or talk to the teachers, or ask their single father to intervene?
Playground sees the state of things not only from the perspective of the overlooked Nora but also of her brother who’s been put in a very tight spot, of their confused father, and of the various teachers. And everything is shot handheld with a daunting intensity from the height of little Nora’s eyes.
Laura Wandel (born in 1984 in Brussels) began her film studies at the young age of 18 and worked in many film productions as a dresser or an assistant up until 2010 when she directed the first of her three short films, of which Foreign Bodies (2014) was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes Playground won the International Federation of Film Critics Un Certain Regard award and has since been awarded at highly regarded film festivals in San Sebastian, London, and Gothenburg. The father figure of Belgian realistic films, Luc Dardanne (who visited our festival in 2005), mentored Wandel during the making of Playground, a film that the director carefully worked on for seven years. (Timo Malmi)