Movie Review: Holy Lola


Movie reviews? Not really my thing. I don’t think I qualify to be a reviewer. But it’s 2012, you can be anything you want to be, and this is my blog. So, here it is.
Holy Lola is a French movie about a childless couple going to Cambodia to adopt a child – any child that comes their way. Except, of course, the ones with HIV or Hepatitis-B. Through the film, they face various obstacles like meeting the wrong people (human traffickers), going through bouts of disappointment when the child they are promised is not given them, corruption of the Cambodian government officials, and the various difficulties any tourist undergoes in a strange land. My question is, why go all the way to Cambodia to adopt children? Doesn’t France have orphanages? Surely, there are orphans in need of help there as well? Children don’t die only in the “East” and the “Far East”. And oh, of course, in Africa.

So, when this couple, Pierre and Geraldine, come to Cambodia, they find many couples like themselves: Sterile, and in desperate need of a child so that life makes sense to them again. And there is an unofficial war-like situation between the French couples in desperate need of a child, and the American couples in desperate need of a child. The French keep on complaining that the Americans get the children easily, and that the American embassy is more efficient. So, apparently, the American government is more sensitive to the feelings of their childless couples. They help more when it comes to snatching away babies from their mothers, from their culture, from their land.
And of course, the Cambodian government does not comply very easily. And why would they, considering the fact that their children are being taken away to false hopes of “a better life”? But the characters are shown to be victims of this “red tape”. They are the ones who “expose” the corrupt officials, “stage a protest” in front of the adoption office when they are not given signatures on their paperwork. I personally think, trying to get money out of the “firangs” is completely justified. It is a way to get even with them. Tit for tat. We do it too here; only in a much smarter way. Retail therapy. Ha Ha. Wanna discover India? Sure.
The Cambodia that is portrayed to the viewer is corrupt, with tons of “knocked up” young girls, and ergo with tons of abandoned, hungry babies in need of the Europeans’ aid. There is also a scene where a beggar woman with three kids begs and the Cambodian doctor tells Pierre and Geraldine never to give them any money. And also tells the beggar woman to give away her child in an orphanage because she “doesn’t stand a chance” if she lives with her.
This is the Cambodia we see, this is the Cambodia the young, “educated” Cambodians will see, and will believe that Cambodia is like that. The scene with the beggar woman made me realise that Holy Lola is a sort-of a Cambodian Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog Millionaire is an example of how the “West” sees India, how it presents to us an India, we, living here in India don’t seem to know!
In the end, all the couples get their kids and fly away to France to live Happily Ever After. Clichéd, isn’t it?

Watching French movies, I increasingly feel that they work under, and within, a very tight discourse: the discourse of “Social Aid” for “underprivileged Third-World countries”. I don’t know if there is a term for it yet. I guess “Business”, or “another-way-of-manipulation-in-order-to-make-money” seems like it. And I don’t see them breaking out of this discourse any time soon.