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Learn By Heart

Mathieu Vadepied’s first feature film, Learn By Heart, is a comic yet earnest drama of two young Afro-French boys using their street wits to rise above their circumstances.

Fourteen-year-old Adama lives in a small apartment in the Parisian ghetto with his single mother, who works the night shift as a cleaning lady. His father is mostly out of the picture and his brother has been sent away due to his involvement with the local gangs. Adama is bright but failing school, especially when drug dealers recruit him and his younger cohort after they learn he’s adept at selling. It’s a familiar story of disenfranchised youth looking for a way out, but Vadepeid’s dramedy infuses the material with a freshness that feels light and optimistic. Both leads are non-professional actors; Balamine Guirassy is an utter revelation as Adama, playing the precocious hustler with skill and nuance, and co-star Ali Bidanessy is perfect as his fiery, comedic counterpart. Their gritty reality touched with a sweetness that never crosses the line into saccharine, this uplifting coming-of-age story is a breath of fresh air.

DIRECTOR: Mathieu Vadepied
CAST: Balamine Guirassy, Ali Bidanessy, Guillaume Gouix, Idrissa Diabaté, Marion Ploquin
YEAR: 2015
LENGTH: 93 min
Wednesday, October 28

4:40pm EDT

Friday, October 30

5:45pm EDT