Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have spent their 50-year filmmaking career crafting politically charged works of realism that never shy away from the systemic injustices in the world. Their unflinching brand of filmmaking has earned them two Palme d’Or awards amid countless other honors, but their latest film might be their angriest work yet.
“Tori and Lokita” saw the Dardennes take on the immigration systems of first-world countries and the needless bureaucracy that often leaves people’s lives hanging in the balance. Telling the story of two children who are determined not to be separated as they try to immigrate from two separate countries, it was an instant hit when it premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Per the official synopsis, from two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne comes the story of 17-year-old Lokita and 12-year-old Tori (in remarkable debut performances from Pablo Schils and Joely Mbundu), two immigrants — from Benin and Cameroon, respectively — struggling for survival on the margins of society. The inseparable pair work as performers in a cheap trattoria, dealing drugs on the side for the restaurant’s abusive cook, while balancing the demands of an indifferent bureaucracy and a band of violent smugglers. When Lokita is held captive while working in a marijuana grow house, Tori scrambles to save his companion from their abusers, as events spiral out of control.
“Tori and Lokita” was overwhelmingly praised when it premiered at Cannes, where it ultimately won the festival’s 75th Anniversary Prize. In his Cannes review, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote that, “Like most of the duo’s work, ‘Tori and Lokita’ leverages the irreducible nature of human dignity against the ever-worsening apathy of human civilization. Like much of their work — including the Palme d’Or winner ‘Rosetta’ and the 2002 masterpiece, ‘The Son’ — the film’s threadbare story hinges on effectively parentless children whose need for support leads them towards danger. And like the best of their work, which this sobering return to form represents from its curious first shot to its furious last beat, its premise pulls tighter until even the simplest actions are endowed with breathless intensity.”
Sideshow and Janus Films will release “Tori and Lokita” in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, March 24, with a nationwide expansion coming in the following weeks. Watch the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, below.