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Film Review: The Truth About Alvert, The Last Dodo (La Vérité Sur Alvert, Le Dernier Dodo)
by Marinell Haegelin

Nathan Clement, Switzerland, France 2022

This captivating film mixes the strength of generational love and the potency of hope with creative imagination. Which oftentimes is all that’s necessary to find ways around difficult situations. Like most boys his age, Lunet can be mischievous, although recently he’s been annoying the other lads, and they’re returning taunts with like behavior. Grandfather tries talking to his good fishing buddy. Lunet stubbornly refuses to listen. Being wise, like most grandfathers, Dadabé understands Lunet’s scared and misses his mother, because he’s worried with his daughter so sick, she’s in the hospital. So, he concocts a tale about sympathetic magic, dodo birds, and his chicken that Lunet dismisses, “Liar!”

One particularly stormy, tumultuous night on the island Dadabé’s chicken Alvert goes missing. After searching their garden, they widen their scope hanging signs, and asking people who propose Alvert’s hiding in someone’s house, gotten lost in the woods, etcetera. Imagine then, when one of the boys Lunet knows finds Alvert and, with encouragement, gives him to Lunet. Finally, grandfather convinces Lunet that inside Alvert is a magical dodo bird and there’s an age-old Creole ceremony that could coax it out. First, they must collect special ingredients, by swapping or chance but not by money, otherwise it’s deceit, not magic. Then Dadabé creates the silhouette of magic: in the garden that night Lunet, watching the performance on the other side of a hanging sheet, sees grandfather pluck a magical medicinal feather from the dodo. Full of hope they take it to the hospital the next day.

Nathan Clement, writer-director-cinematographer, chose his home island of Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, as the colorful setting for LA VÉRITÉ SUR ALVERT, LE DERNIER DODO, also Clement’s 15-minute attention-grabbing 2022 diploma film. Beautifully shot, and tightly edited by Emilio Anatriello, the characters uniquely unusual ‘role reversal’ and the story’s gracious humor and empathy is spellbinding. Georges ‘zyz’ Razafintsotra as Dadabé—and music composer—and Arnaud Dousse as Lunet give uplifting performances. Besides our hearts, this little gem captured the ECFA Award—the festival’s 2023 nomination for Best European Young Audience Film of the Year.

* Unfortunately, this species was lost to extinction in 1681 when the last dodo was killed. “The Dodo is a lesson in extinction.” –American Museum of Natural History