Oh childhood with all your curiosity and innocence! Where the world is open for you, where you can ask all kind of questions. Where you can wish for everything, which is what the two boys do in Finnish debut director (for long documentaries) Reetta Huhtanen’s remarkable film “Gods of Molenbeek”.
I want a God as Amine, says 6 year old Aatos to his mother, who is Finnish, his father is from Chile. He goes to a French language school, whereas his close friend Amine’s parents are from Morocco. Amine goes to an Arabic
language school. Aatos is impressed, when the two friends visit the mosque and Amine speaks Arabic with the local imam. God is present through the whole film, actually you might say that the boys in their own charming way are having a theological discourse.
It’s a film that touches your heart and makes you believe that kids like this – including also the girl Flo who takes Aatos to the nature, “God is nature” – will make the world a better place to be, with all their common sense, their enthusiasm and hunger for life.
The film takes place in Molenbeek, a suburb to Brussels, characterised as the craddle for jihadism in connection with terrorist attacks in Belgium and France. There are soldiers in the streets, the kids see them, the school bag of Aatos is checked, you hear shouts like “we are muslims not terrorists”, there are images of demonstrations against hate and terrorism, and for solidarity; Aatos lights candles for victims of a bomb
… but still in the frame of the film’s story all this is in the background, whereas the kids and their playing, their trying to find out what’s it all about is the main focus; life, death, God.
Well, there is a scene that is a bit scary: Aatos lies on his bed laughing, when he is talking about people having their heads blown off and so on. Boom Boom! It makes me sad, the mother says, she knows that this fantasy comes from what has happened outside their doors.
… but still on to next sequences where the two friends play in the courtyard or in the streets, or have intimate talks with each other. Life-affirming it is, when the two dancing cover themselves with toilet paper, when Aatos plays Poseidon and Hermes with his winged shoes, imagination, not to forget when he goes around with his home made periscope observing the world around him. He is a film star and he is making his own film within the film.
We are the strongest in the world, they shout in one of their games, indeed they are, Aatos and Amine, who in the end split up, as Aatos is moving to Finland. It gave me a tear in the eye but I trust that a friendship like this will last. Tear in the eye, I had that many times, watching the boys and their happy faces wanting to discover the world.
For me here is another tribute to childhood and imagination following – to mention two masterpieces – films like Marcel Lozinski’s «Anything Can Happen» where the director’s son is running around in a park asking old people questions about God and Life and Death, and JoJo from Nicolas Philibert’s «Etre et Avoir».
Please God, be good to Aatos and Amine!
Tue Steen Müller, Grandfather
Finland, 2019, 73 mins.