________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Exiles in Lotusland: From Montreal to Vancouver...In Search of Themselves.

Ilan Saragosti (Writer & Director). Claudette Jaiko (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.
71 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: C0105 110 (VHS); E9905238 (DVD).

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

** /4

I have been to Vancouver on a number of occasions and have enjoyed each visit. However, I was there as a tourist and was able to buy whatever I needed. The streets of Vancouver are a different place for those who live on them, and Exiles in Lotusland shows some of what this means to Mélo and Ti-criss, the two individuals featured in this film.

     The film opens with the pair doing some sort of drug—which later is identified as crystal meth—in an alley. This is a dark film and difficult to watch at times as duo's lives are shown as they are. At times, one or the other asks that the camera be turned off as they do not wish to be filmed. At one point, having just found some drugs, Mélo admits that this is her "first hit in seven days," and so she would like some privacy.

     Exiles in Lotusland looks at the number of Quebec-based street kids in Vancouver. According to the film, "One in four street kids is from Quebec." Some are searching for a new life; others are trying to get as far away from home as possible. The homeless situation in Vancouver is presented as it is. One youth worker admits that, of 200 kids he has worked with, he can count the successes on one hand. The film is simply a chronicle of a slice of Ti-criss and Mélo's lives. It is raw and unscripted.

     Ti-criss has run away from foster care and admits he is not sure if the person who claims to be his father is actually his father or his uncle. Both men were intimate with his prostitute mother. He states that he "learns more on the street than in school" and when "you travel, you meet people." He and Mélo support each other, and they manage to find work and survive, but life is too much for Ti-criss, and he commits suicide.

     Mélo turned 15 the summer she arrived in Vancouver. She also left Quebec to be away from juvenile homes. A strong character, she is able to find work in the Okanagan Valley but admits that she will never be in the main stream of society. She is deeply hurt by Ti-criss' death, but the film shows she has a strong community of supporters. One gets the impression that she will be okay.

     Exiles in Lotusland is a difficult film to watch. It is dark and depressing and goes on longer than necessary. As the film centres on the Quebec kids, almost all the film is in French with subtitles. While the film would work with courses dealing with Family Studies, Law, Urban Geography, and Ethics, students may find it slow and the subtitles distracting.

Recommended with reservations.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.