The Consul of Bordeaux (2011)

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

In 2009, the French TV film Désobéir by Joël Santoni became one of the first works to explore the heroism of Aristides de Sousa Mendes who became known as the “angel of Bordeaux”. Sousa Mendes has also been called the “Portuguese Schindler”, after Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved thousands in the Second World War and was immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s academy award winning Schindler’s List. The most recent work on Sousa Mendes, The Consul of Bordeaux directed by Joao Correa and Francisco Manso pales in comparison to Spielberg’s work, but nevertheless it is an incredible story.

The Consul of Bordeaux portrays the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a man of conviction who saved 30,000 lives during WW II, including 10,000 Jews. As a Portuguese General Consul stationed in Bordeaux, France, he issued 30,000 visas for safe passage to Portugal. He defied the direct orders of his government and exhibited courage, moral rectitude, unselfishness and self-sacrifice by issuing visas to all refugees, regardless of nationality, race, religion or political opinions.

The film is peppered with the consul’s positive, humanitarian rhetoric against racist consulate employees who try to stop him. Though his proclamations are undeniably true, the film feels too stagey at times to be truly captivating. The film does best when it relates the stressful conditions Sousa Mendes and his aides worked long hours under in order to bust out as many people as possible. In this area the film succeeds and provides fruitful and authentic details.

The conclusion to the film leaves out Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ ultimate fate as he and his children were severely punished by the Portuguese government and condemned to live without means and in poverty. Twelve years after his death in 1966 Israel declared him to be a “Righteous Among the Nations.” After the instauration of democracy in Portugal, its President Mario Soares apologized to the Sousa Mendes family. Overall The Consul of Bordeaux is an interesting historical melodrama and an exemplary story about a Catholic who chooses to follow his conscience to save human lives. Even though its not in the same class as WWII masterpieces like Schindler’s List, it is still a historical story worth watching.

#Film, #Theconsulofbordeaux, #Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Awards and Festivals
Jewish Motifs Film Festival 2013: Coimbra Caminhos do Cinema
Português 2012: Audience Award – Best Film
Lucerne Film Festival 2011: Nominated for Best Film

Christophe Chanel

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