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Un Sac de Billes (A Bag Of Marbles)

Based on a true story

A Bag Of Marbles (Un Sac de billes), based on the popular autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo, is the story of a French-Jewish family living in Paris during World War II. The two older brothers work in the barber shop run by their father (Patrick Bruel), while the younger brothers, Maurice (Batyste Fleurial) and Joe (Dorian Le Clech), are spoiled by their mother (Elsa Zylberstein), a violinist.

While the boys enjoy a fairly normal life and even play pranks on the newly arrived Nazis, the parents are keenly aware of what is coming. By the time the Jews are required to wear the yellow star, the two younger boys are beaten up at school, and their parents send them out, alone in the night, to try to make it to the free zone in the South and meet up with their older brothers. While the focus is on the two boys, we also get the point of view of their parents, who make the heartrending choice to separate from their sons because they realize that they all have a greater chance of survival travelling separately.

The heart of the movie is the brothers’ lonely and frightening but sometimes exhilarating journey. In the beginning, they bicker like the children they are, but as the movie progresses they begin to help each other and work together as few brothers in normal circumstances would ever manage to do. There is some spectacular scenery as they make the journey, as well as some very sweet, even funny, moments.

After they are reunited with their whole family in Nice, the Nazis close in, and they are sent to a kind of paramilitary camp, where they keep their true identities a secret. Hitching a ride with a deliveryman for fun one day, they are picked up by the Nazis. This section of the movie, told from Joe’s point of view, is terrifying. Holocaust survivors have often been questioned on how they made it through, and this section shows very clearly how big a role luck often played.

The strongest parts of the movie are the scenes that spotlight the shifting relationship between the two younger brothers, and though I wish the movie could have developed this even further, this is still one of the best movies about the Holocaust from a child’s point of view in a long time.

– Hannah Brown, The Jerusalem Post

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Directed by: 
Christian Duguay
Running Time: 
French with English Subtitles
Dorian Le Clech, Batyste Fleurial, Patrick Bruel, Elsa Zylberstein, Bernard Campan
Official site: 
Screenplay by: 
Christian Duguay, Benoît Guichard, Jonathan Allouche, Alexandra Geismar, Laurent Zeitoun

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