Holy Lola

Director: Bertrand Tavernier

2004. 128mins

A French couple heads to Cambodia to adopt a child in Bertrand Tavernier’s examination of the First World’s childless and the Third World’s children, and the histories of class, race and colonialism that come between the two. Unable to have a child of their own, Pierre and Geraldine (Jacques Gamblin and Isabelle Carre) decide to adopt an orphan in Cambodia. Their trip winds up in a Phnom Penh hotel—one that’s booked solid—with other French couples, looking for Cambodian orphans. Battling a hostile natural climate of steady rainfall and ever-present mosquitoes and an inhospitable bureaucratic climate of documents, signatures and passports, Pierre and Geraldine soon realize that their dream of having a child may take far longer than expected, unless certain palms are greased and certain rules broken. There are no villains in Holy Lola, nor heroes; instead, Tavernier offers an almost documentary-like account of the adoption process, of Cambodia itself and of First Worlders in the Third World, with all the vast colonial legacies of mistrust, rage and frustration that implies. Essentially likable people, the French couple still pales before Holy Lola’s most empathetic ‘character,’ Cambodia—its beauty and energy. Cast: Jacques Gamblin, Isabelle Carre, Bruno Putzulu.

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