Un sac de billes

Historical Drama
French (Available subtitled in English)

Region: Quebec

Year of Production: 2017

Canadian Release Date: June 16, 2017

Duration: 112 minutes

Paris, 1941. Joseph and Maurice Joffo, aged 10 and 12, are enjoying a carefree childhood in a Jewish immigrant neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement with their siblings and their parents, who run a small barbershop. Even when the German occupation requires Jews to wear a yellow star, leading to the boys’ first experience of racism, their biggest concern is winning at marbles with their schoolmates.

As discrimination against Jews worsens, the parents make the wrenching decision to send Joseph and Maurice to stay with their older brothers Albert and Henri, who have already fled to the free zone. The excited youngsters proudly set off from their beloved home in the middle of the night, with strict instructions to never ever let anyone know they are Jewish. With only a satchel and ten thousand francs, they board the train for Dax, on the first leg of a journey that will prove to be a veritable lesson in survival. All public places are closely watched and they have no papers. If they are to elude the authorities, they must learn to keep a cool head in the most dangerous circumstances.

More inseparable than ever, the two boys face each new challenge with amazing courage and ingenuity. They make their way from Paris to Dax, from Aire-sur-Adour to Marseilles, and from there to Menton thanks to incredible luck and their growing audacity. Resourceful to the point of reckless, they take extraordinary risks to get whatever they need to survive.

Travelling by train, bus, horse-drawn carriage and on foot, the boys eventually arrive in the free zone, where they marvel at their first sight of the sea in Marseilles, act like kids again playing in the streets of Menton, worry about their parents who have been arrested and imprisoned in Pau, quarrel in Hagetmau, hide out in a youth camp in Golfe Juan and are finally caught in a trap and taken to SS headquarters at the Hôtel Excelsior. There they experience their darkest moments, witnessing the Nazi barbarity firsthand and seeing their less wily friends killed before their eyes. But with their years on the run together, the brothers wordlessly understand each other. Even when they are interrogated separately, despite the threats and trickery of the French officials, they manage to give identical answers—never betraying each other and, as their father warned them, never revealing their Jewish identity.

PRODUCTION COMPANY: FILMS IDL

Coproduction Partner(s): QUAD

Cast/Participants: Dorian Le Clech, Batyste Fleurial Palmieri, Patrick Bruel, Elsa Zylberstein