The Elephant or the Pygmy?
In the world of Dominique Standaert’s Hop, Burundian refugees and Belgian citizens clash when a Burundian father and son face deportation in Belgium. Circumstances twist to find that the threat changes and instead the main protagonist, a young boy named Justin, plays oppressor and Belgium the victim. Justin’s father gets deported by Belgium police and, with the help of an old-time revolutionary and a sympathetic woman, Justin devises a plan to get his father back and to keep him in Belgium for good. At the core of the movie is the issue of refugees: Is it right to deport those that are in a country as refugees when the situation at home is horrible?
In the movie, Justin and his father are relatively well off, especially in comparison to most refugees—specifically those from Burundi. Over 568,000 Burundian refugees have fled the country due to the hostile political and socioeconomic conditions. The UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, helps those displaced persons by providing shelter, care, and asylum. When knowing how hard the situation is for Burundian refugees, it is easier to understand why Hop focuses not on the politics but on the emotion behind such a need to remain instead of going home.
The heavy topic of refugees and human rights, an important United Nation’s issue, is softened by the Pygmy anecdote of Hop, a tribal way of controlling unruly African elephants. This ritual is complemented by the revolutionary spirit of Frans, Justin’s eventual cohort. The tale of Hop becomes one that tackles the issue of refugees without focusing on only the bad endings, which allows for humor to take control and the eventual childish pranks to be moderated. The bonding of friendship and shared experiences is the focal point of Hop, easily moving viewers past the sticky politics and into the true heart of the film.
Not completely realistic, Hop is a humorous take on deportation that captures viewers with its heartwarming interactions between Belgian citizens and the refugees that are being forced to go home. Through the beautiful cinematography and complex character interactions, the audience is drawn into the dynamite plot. The choice between lawful righteousness and moral sympathy plays a major role in the movie, hovering just behind Kalomba Mboyi’s intense performance as Justin.
Hop is available at the Iowa City Public Library for a convenient seven-day rental. It is definitely worth seeing a second time if the heavy issues and their contrasting light interpretation is appealing to you. I definitely recommend seeing it. This movie is too heartfelt to miss!
Amanda Shine – International Movie Reviewer