Rabat - To everyone their truth. This, however, does not change the hard facts of reality. Exfiltrating three hundred children from their country of birth to another one, whatever the reasons, is a case of human trafficking and, therefore, a crime punishable by international law. Saying that they are war orphans who would be better off smuggled out of their homes to be adopted by generous families in some Western country is but an attempt of moral justification of an unlawful act and a case of the time-old colonial attitudes of taking oneself to be the model everyone must comply with and the God appointed savior of the others from the deprivation of their barbarian difference.
Rabat – To everyone their truth. This, however, does not change the hard facts of reality. Exfiltrating three hundred children from their country of birth to another one, whatever the reasons, is a case of human trafficking and, therefore, a crime punishable by international law. Saying that they are war orphans who would be better off smuggled out of their homes to be adopted by generous families in some Western country is but an attempt of moral justification of an unlawful act and a case of the time-old colonial attitudes of taking oneself to be the model everyone must comply with and the God appointed savior of the others from the deprivation of their barbarian difference.
Establishing an underground clandestine network for harvesting children in a war-stricken country with the complicity of corrupt so called village chiefs is as shameful and disgraceful as it is reprehensible and unpardonable. Likewise, setting up camps, operating secret landing and taking off runways for big airplanes in the land of another country is, under all laws of the world, acts of subversion and violation of the sovereignty of nations and are dealt with in martial courts. Lying to natives and making them believe that you are a world recognized NGO that will take care of war orphans, protect them from the war, educate them and feed them from age five until they are of age while you are raising money illegally and sealing contracts to deliver them to individuals in other continents is not only immoral and heartless, but evidence of the worst imaginable types of selfishness, conceit, treachery and deception. The film is a study of how emotional manipulation, ideological justification and falsehood couple to skill, technique and narration methods can result in exonerating such facts from their necessary consequences.
The qualification of the essence of a loathsome behavior or of a noble action is the material film works with. In fact, what the film maker assumes the life experience of the viewer, their knowledge of the world, what they had been taught their role, mission, position and image in the universe is and should be will be summoned to create feelings of sympathy, identification and the conditions for judgments to be made. The film maker knows well they see depending on what they think their responsibilities, rights and obligations in their world are. Should they not be clear about any of these, the film will provide options for them.
“White knights” is a narrative that is closely inspired by real events although it does warn that the inspiration was just a trigger of the imagination of the makers. The details we are invited to believe are of pure invention. It is the adventurous undertaking of a man and a woman to collect children from a war zone to provide for adoption in a European country. They raise money, set up an intricate scheme of identifying would be adopters convincing them they are engaged in a noble mission. They also set up a team of volunteers to help implement the scheme. An ambitious reporter is engaged to keep track of everything taking place.
The suspicions looming over the whole undertaking from the beginning are confirmed as negotiations continue over the phone with would be foster parents. The case is one of human trafficking. Everything is done in total illegality. Not everything goes as planned. An unexpected break down of the secretly charted plane to travel through the big country, Chad we are led to think, the unity of the team breaks as one group insist they do the trips by trucks and another rejects the option as too hazardous. We discover that at least some of the members of the team were earnest volunteers and were not aware they were involved in a phony NGO.
A “commando” of fake humanitarian volunteers led by the team leader and his companion take the risk and leave the camp in cars. Nothing goes as they had wished. The village chiefs did not have the kids ready and many of those they had were older than five years. They did not understand why the kids could not be visited in the camp if they were to be raised and schooled therein. On the way bay back of the “commando” to the camp, they are chased and shot at by the rebels. They are also subjected to a very thorough and tough interrogation by some European officer, perhaps acting for a European alliance against the rebellion. The leader of the “commando” who of course could not produce neither official documents of the NGO nor any official authorizations to operate in the area, proved, however, a skilled liar and managed to get out of the trap and save his team.
At the sight of the traces of the shots on the cars, some members of the team decided to split and go back home. The mission continued. Kids were eventually “collected” in sufficient numbers. Some were too old and were returned to their homes. Some were found not to be orphans. A mother came to the camp to visit her son jeopardizing the whole scheme to be revealed. Some of the volunteers proposed to adopt a few of the kids who were rejected by would be foster parents for different reasons. One volunteer took emotionally to a seven year kid and decided to adopt him as he did not qualify according to the terms with the candidate families.
The day to depart and exfiltrate the kids, the boss gathers all the locals working at the camp , makes a speech and gives them two days off. They could go to their villages and visit their families. Only Bintou, the local translator, is informed of the truth of the operation. The boss told her they had lied to her and they were going to take the kdis out of the country once for all. They had cheated her trust in them. The emotional investment she had made in the whole operation and the hope she had developed for the kids and her role in it were all shattered so blatantly, so dramatically and so suddenly. She is given money, told she could stay in the camp for the rest of the month as the rent had already been paid and that she could help herself to everything left, food, equipment, etc. She did not utter a word. That was the only compensation they could provide. She looked stunned.
Everything was arranged. The kids were loaded in the trucks, everyone briefed, the plane ready to take off, the caravan is about to leave when Bintou is not to be found anywhere in the camp. She had left. The Caravan is intercepted on its way to the plane.
The high quality of the acting as well as the personal histories of the lead actors when they are known to viewers and their professions in the film which the viewer is constantly reminded of – nurses and firefighters – and the effects of the impersonal electronic music are all elements of the mitigation strategy to condone, or at least not to judge the facts morally.
Joachim Lafosse, the film Director, has brought together a brilliant cast and technical team to make Franco- Belgian cooperation more promising than ever. The Jury of the 15th Marrakech International Film Festival, led by Mr. Francis Ford Coppola has acknowledged their outstanding performance.