Screened as part of NZIFF 2021

Playground 2021

Un monde

Directed by Laura Wandel

A seven-year-old child becomes caught in a conflict of loyalty after her beloved brother falls victim to brutal schoolyard bullying.

Belgium In French with English subtitles
72 minutes DCP


Director, Screenplay


Maya Vanderbeque
Günter Duret
Karim Leklou


Stéphane Lhoest


Frédéric Noirhomme


Nicolas Rumpl


Cannes (Un Certain Regard), San Sebastián, London 2021


FIPRESCI Prize (Un Certain Regard), Cannes Film Festival 2021; Best First Film, London Film Festival 2021


“A gut-punch of a film that is not so much a portrait of schoolyard bullying as it is a sensory immersion straight into the heart of children abusing other children physically and emotionally, Playground is a sit-up-and-take-notice blend of outstandingly natural performances enhanced by spot-on cinematic choices. Told almost entirely from the height of its young protagonists, the film plunges viewers into a world (the film’s original French title is Un Monde) of seemingly unavoidable unease, grabbing us from the first frame and rarely letting up its relentless focus on stoic suffering vs daring to upset the status quo...

Two youngsters, seven-year-old Nora (Maya Vanderbeque) and her older brother Abel (Günter Duret), are reluctant to leave their father (Karim Leklou) in order to enter their primary school... Fifteen minutes of screen time representing several days elapse before we see sulky Nora smile; she has finally acquired a few girlfriends to play with and feels good about belonging. They bite their sandwiches into funny shapes and challenge the others to guess what the bread outline is meant to be. Then Nora glimpses some of the older boys viciously dunking somebody’s head in a toilet. The victim is her brother...

As Abel fails to defend himself – in fairness, he’s outnumbered and his enemies are truly frightening – Nora’s unconditional respect for her brother begins to fray... The film lasts just 72 minutes but that’s enough time to show how people who are mistreated may well turn to harming others, just to have some semblance of control. The implications are truly unnerving.” — Lisa Nesselson, Screendaily