LITTLE GEMS / Les Pépites
West Coast Premiere • Documentary • France, 2016
DCP • 2.35 • Dolby 5.1 • Color • 88 min
Written and Directed by: Xavier de Lauzanne
Cinematography: Jerôme Krumanecker, Mono Yim
Film Editing: Florence Ricard
Original Score: Camille Rocailleux
Produced by: François-Hugues de Vaumas, Xavier de Lauzanne (Aloest Productions), Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou (Bonne Pioche Cinéma)
International Sales: Lucky You
This uplifting documentary celebrates the humanitarian work of a humble French couple that dedicated their retirement years to bettering the lives of Cambodia’s garbage-dump children. Christian and Marie-France des Pallières are an unlikely pair of heroes. In the 1990s, they came upon an apocalyptic scene of ragged children trawling through a heaving landscape of junk, filth, and toxic waste trying to scavenge anything of value. These latter day ragpickers, some as young as four, exist on the edge of Cambodian society, with no access to education, medicine, or even decent food. Many of them were sold by their parents, abused, raped. The couple settled in Cambodia, determined to make a difference in the lives of these “gems.”. Christian, a jovial man of aristocratic heritage, was soon spending his days at the dump, building shelters, and, most importantly, a school. Over the next two decades their foundation, PSE (For a Child’s Smile), would result in salvaging thousands from a bleak future.
Xavier de Lauzanne has been fascinated with Southeast Asia since he began his career as a documentarian. His earliest film was a documentary essay about the veterans of the First Indochinese War. Always drawn to humanitarian stories, de Lauzanne became intrigued with Christian and Marie-France des Pallières in 2000 while shooting a promotional film for their foundation PSE. Their association led to a France 5 documentary short Pour un sourire d’enfant in 2002. In 2008 de Lauzanne released With One Voice, a documentary following a group of Palestinian and Israeli musicians on tour in France. His 2013 documentary Enfants valise, examined the difficulties of “suitcase kids”, who arrive in France from northern Africa and are expected to quickly adapt to French culture.