It is always a great pleasure to see a film by Kim Longinotto. Renowned for her human portraits of characters, often women fighting oppression or injustice, Longinotto’s films are loaded with human drama, compassion and humour told in an observational style that leaves the floor to the characters and allows time for the stories to unfold.
This time, Longinotto has surprisingly shot a film in her own country. “Hold Me Tight-Let me Go” is about the Mulberry Bush Boarding School for children who have suffered severe emotional traumas. The teachers (108 for 40 children) help the children to regain self-confidence and self-respect and train them to be able to control their often violent behaviour and reactions.
The film does not introduce us to the working method of the teachers at the school, but it soon becomes clear that physical contact and dialogue with the children are a means for helping them to understand and overcome their rage, fear and-bad behaviour. Fights between the children and children spitting at and kicking teachers are everyday occurrences for the staff who react calmly, always trying to make the child verbalise his or her feelings. The children are never punished.
Sometimes the teachers need to physically restrain a child to prevent him from hurting others, locking his arms and talking to him, and more often than not, a crisis like this ends with the child and teacher hugging. Anger and violence are eventually replaced by moments of comfort.
As the title of the film suggests, the story lies in those moments. As much as the kids want to fight adult authority and physical restriction, they also crave the affection of the same adults. The film works around these conflicts and emotional schisms.
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