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Themes of identity, memory, trauma, and the possibility of second chances come together in a potent blend in writer/director Ellie Foumbi’s gripping debut feature Our Father, the Devil. Part character study, part thriller, it centers on a woman whose horrifying past unexpectedly comes back to haunt her years after she believes she’s left it behind — and she isn’t at all ready for what that might mean.

Marie (the excellent Babetida Sadjo) lives a quiet life in Luchon, France, where she works as a chef in an upscale retirement home/nursing facility. She has a best friend, Nadia (Jennifer Tchiakpe), and has developed a close relationship with one of the home’s residents, Madame Guyot (Martine Amisse), who likes Marie so much that she’s decided to leave Marie her family’s remote cabin (much to said family’s dismay). Things seem to be going along well enough until a new priest, Father Patrick (Souleymane Sy Savane), arrives at the facility and immediately becomes popular with both the residents and the staff.

His appearance shakes Marie to her very core, because she believes that, rather than a kind Catholic priest, he’s actually Sojo, the warlord responsible for butchering her family when she was a girl living in Africa. To share much more about the twists and turns the story takes from there would undermine the tension that Foumbi so carefully establishes. Suffice it to say that the reminder of the past she’s worked so hard to forget sends Marie into a spiral of rage, sorrow, guilt, and uncertainty.

Sadjo is mesmerizing as Marie, conveying untold depths of trauma and anger with her expressions and body language. As she grapples with her extremely complicated feelings about Father Patrick/Sojo — and about her own past actions — Marie must decide whether either of them deserves a second chance. Foumbi is there to support her main character the whole time, capturing her complex story with care and nuance. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Sandie Angulo Chen: Our Father, The Devil is one of the most powerful films of the year, an exploration of trauma, repentance, and forgiveness. Inspired by her father’s work with the United Nations in war-torn African nations, director Ellie Foumbi’s French-language drama/mystery forces audiences to question who is culpable and who is deserving of a second chance. Actors Babetida Sadjo and Souleymane Sy Savane give remarkable performances as two African refugees in the South of France who may or may not have a violent history together. There are several unforgettably intense moments in the drama, as Marie (Sadjo), the head chef of a posh retirement home, interacts with a charismatic new priest, Father Patrick (Savane) who triggers her PTSD about a past so unspeakably violent that even her scarred back doesn’t tell the whole story. An award-worthy film from a debut director to watch.

Sherin Nicole Lit in an almost diffused glow and drenched in earth tones, Our Father, The Devil taunts the audience, making us question who needs saving and if redemption is possible. Writer/director Ellie Foumbi creates a world where the light is made meaningful by the shadows, inside a story where the past is a poltergeist. One that pushes a woman to violently protect the fragile sanity she has built outside the reach of her time as a child soldier. Babetida Sadjo is Foumbi’s muse, and she portrays the lead character Marie as compellingly cataclysmic. Especially when Marie is confronted by her personal demon in the flesh. To narrate what happens next is a disservice, but you should know I couldn’t stop thinking about the colloquialism “hair of the dog that bit you” or the gang motto “blood in blood out” while watching Our Father, The Devil. The hook in this thriller is not who will die but whether trauma inflicted can be an antidote for trauma received.

Leslie Combemale For Our Father, The Devil, the success of the film is in the hands of lead Babetida Sadjo, who delivers a multilayered performance that, regardless of her actions, parks the audience firmly in her camp. We want her to be delivered from her own personal demons, no matter what is required. The scenes between her character Marie and Father Patrick (Souleymane Sy Savane) create a powerful arc of guilt, rage, and redemption, and in their interactions viewers can find the full spectrum of human suffering, and the results of choices we make in the worst circumstances, from inhumanity to compassion. That’s no easy task for Ellie Foumbi, a first-time feature director, to pull off, but she does.

Loren King What an extraordinary debut feature from Ellie Foumbi. She blends compelling visuals such as reflections in glass and solitary shots of central character Marie (an exquisite Babetida Sadjo) with an intense story that’s both wrenching human drama and gripping thriller. Marie is an African immigrant living in France and working as head chef at a retirement home. Her life is upended on a random work day when she comes face to face with the newly arrived African priest Father Patrick. But Marie knows him as the young soldier and warlord Sojo who, as part of a violent militia back in Africa, killed her family and then kidnapped, raped and tortured her. Read full review.

Jennifer Merin Our Father, The Devil is the stunning first feature from Ellie Foumbi, a Cameroon-born filmmaker who grew up in the New York City suburbs. The film is a most compelling blend of psychological drama and revenge thriller. The character driven story centers on Marie (brilliantly portrayed by Babetida Sadjo), an African immigrant from Guinea who lives in a rural French town where she works as a chef in a retirement home. Her life is quiet and mostly solitary, although her coworkers and some of the residents at the retirement home are her dear and devoted friends. Marie’s quietude and contentment are completely disrupted when Father Patrick (Souleymane Sy Savane), a Catholic priest, comes to the retirement home to conduct religious services and offer guidance. Marie recognizes him as someone from her former life in Africa, and as their mutual past clashes in the present, she is suddenly overwhelmed by deeply repressed memories of deep seated traumas. No spoilers, but the story, which is told and unfolds in way that is completely engrossing, leads to contemplation and understanding of the long lasting effects of past traumas, especially as they are experienced by one woman who could be every women. This is a film that will stick with you.

Jamie Broadnax Our Father, The Devil is a compelling thriller filled with mystery and intrigue with a commanding performance by its lead protagonist that keeps you on the edge of your seat moment-by-moment. I enjoyed how this film kept me engaged and also mystified by its story and characters.

Nikki Fowler: Female critics and reviewers are essential and that isn’t more plainly seen then when unpacking the deeply riveting psychological France based thriller Our Father, the Devil. The film dives into one’s woman’s past, secrets and tragedy as a Guinean chef, Marie (played by Babetida Sadjo), who is working at a high end retirement community that has an unexpected encounter with an African Catholic priest who is delivering a sermon. Our Father, the Devil. is a laudable directing debut from Ellie Foumbi. Read full review.

Liz Whittemore Writer-director Ellie Foumbi serves audiences a brilliant narrative exploring unresolved trauma, revenge, and forgiveness. The script keeps you guessing, only allowing for brief moments of respite. It’s a fascinating build-up of tension. Souléymane Sy Savané plays Father Patrick with equal parts vulnerability and aggression. Babetido Sadjo gives astounding depth to Marie, a feminist character seeking a reclamation of power through her choice to throw social niceties to the wayside and bold intentions. Sadjo lives in the complexity of this role. Our Father, The Devil is an extraordinary showcase for our two leads. This emotional gauntlet will have you gasping, wincing, and entranced. A cleverly edited sequence shreds your nerves beyond repair even though we witness no actual injury. The film boasts an ending that serves as both a shock and an aha. Our Father, The Devil speaks to the darkness in us all, our ability to do unspeakable acts, and our endeavors to evolve.

Cate Marquis An intense drama about Marie (Babetida Sadjo), who immigrated to France from a war-torn African country but has built a quiet life for herself as a chef at a nursing home in a rural French town, a facility where her beloved mentor is a resident. When a new Catholic priest (Souleymane Sy Savane) arrives, who will be visiting to offer pastoral services to the nursing home residents, Marie is thunderstruck, as she believes she recognizes him as the warlord who attacked her village. Thus Our Father, The Devil, Cameroon-born, New York-based director Ellie Foumbi’s haunting debut feature, begins an electrifying cat-and-mouse tale, and an exploration of the scars of war, and the power of memory, rage, guilt, and grief.


Title: Our Father, The Devil

Director: Ellie Foumbi

Release Date: August 25, 2020 (limited theatrical)

Running Time: 107 minutes

Language: French with English subtitles

Screenwriter: Ellie Foumbi

Distribution Company: Cinedigm Entertainment Group, Cineverse, Fandor

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Jamie Broadnax, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

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Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).