Directed by: Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie | 78 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Nathan van der Horst, Ruben Lürsen, Hymke de Vries, Jan Nonhof, Finn Poncin, Simon Zwiers, Ilse Warringa
Under a large baobab tree, an old man tells the story of ten-year-old Maki who escapes a slave trader and bumps into the young giraffe Zarafa and her mother. When Zarafa’s mother is shot dead by the villainous trader, Maki promises her that he will always take care of her daughter. Hassan, the prince of the desert, helps Maki and Zarafa escape the slave trader. At the same time, Hassan has been ordered to bring Zarafa to France, so Zarafa and Maki have to be separated. Of course Maki will not let this happen just like that!
Zarafa is Arabic for giraffe. This giraffe really existed. To improve relations between France and Egypt, the governor of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, gave the giraffe to King Charles X of France. A true giraffe madness arose in France, which can also be seen in the film. However, some story elements have been changed or added to make the movie more appealing to children.
The film was shot in Cinemascope, creating stretched western-like landscapes. The specific mood of each scene is appropriately reflected in the drawings. In this way, light and color are perfectly adapted to the time period in which the story takes place. The music also plays a major role in determining the atmosphere: from sad to exciting scenes, the music always seems to be perfect.
The French animated film “Zarafa” covers a slightly less obvious theme than you would expect from a children’s film. Yet no detailed account is given of the history of the slave trade, but rather attention is paid to important themes such as freedom, friendship, fairness and happiness.
Some parts of the story are very moving and perhaps a bit on the heavy side for a children’s film. However, the grief is always smartly softened. For example, one of the cows on the trip dies, which is of course a very sad moment. It is then made clear that it is a Buddhist cow and that her soul lives on in another animal, with which the pain can be somewhat relieved.
“Zarafa” has been dubbed in Dutch to introduce Dutch children to foreign films. In addition, it is important that this film is seen by children, as slavery is a theme that is increasingly being forgotten. The engaging, sometimes poignant story will not leave many adults unmoved. Despite its serious undertone, “Zarafa” is first and foremost an enchanting adventure film that will stir childlike curiosity even more.