Still from "Paradise: Love"

Another May, another champagne drenched Cannes festival. Soaked in the Riviera sun, there were a few interesting films screening from outside of Europe, some of which caught my attention. First, a film from veteran Senegalese director Moussa Toure (not the footballer). His film, ‘La Pirogue’ screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, and stars Bassirou Diakhate and Moctar Diop:

The film follows the story of 40 men who try to make an illegal crossing from Dakar to the Spanish coast. Many of the men have never seen the sea, or know what to expect upon their arrival to Europe. (Three more fragments of the film here, here and here.)

About his inspiration for the film, Toure says:

You know, there are subjects that you don’t go looking for, they’re just there, right in front of you. When I open my window, we’re by the sea. In Dakar we’re not by the ocean, we’re in the ocean. We can see the sea on both sides and people leave in pirogues from both sides. Leaving by pirogue is easy, but what is it that makes them leave?

From the view of the yacht-riddled Riviera bay, the contrast to ‘La Pirogue’ could not be more striking. By taking on the subject matter of illegal crossings and the risks that migrants take on treacherous water crossing, Toure’s film links to a tide of others released recently that address this subject matter, a few of which we mentioned here. It also somewhat morbidly chimes with the recent international outrage about the ‘left to die’ boat, abandoned and ignored by NATO forces. The film did not secure distribution at the festival, but perhaps we can hope that it will soon.

Next, another Senegalese director, Alain Gomis, whose film ‘Aujourd’hui’ (‘Today’) gained distribution from its screening at the festival, also screened at the Berlinale earlier in the year, which we wrote about here.

Gomis describes the film as “the kind of tale that takes place in an imaginary society in which death comes looking for someone. The film starts when he opens his eyes and ends when they close.”

Also screening as part of the Official Selection was Nabil Ayouch’s ‘Les Chevaux De Dieu’ (‘Horses of God’), a film about the 2003 Casablanca bombings, a film The Hollywood Reporter described as an ‘intimate portrait of boys growing up in a toxic environment’. Written by Jamal Belmahi, the film is based on a book about the five simultaneous explosions in Casablanca in 2001, and “uses current events — the death of King Hassan II, the attack on the World Trade Center — to explain how dwellers in the Sidi Moumen slum slowly turned towards keeping women at home and tolerating, when not embracing, the rise of fundamentalism.” Trailer below (only with French subtitles):

Next, a film that has divided critics with its uncomfortable subject matter — sex tourism in Kenya. ‘Paradise: Love’ screened in competition at this year’s festival, directed by Ulrich Seidl. Anyone who has travelled to Kenya will recognize the scenes depicted, so it almost falls into a caricature of itself. Yet the delicate, vulnerable side of white women looking for sex with ‘beach boys’ is a side to prostitution that critics seem to, as yet, be uncomfortable with.

Here is the trailer:

And three more fragments here, here and here. A synopsis: “sugar mamas” = European women who seek out African boys selling love to earn a living. Teresa, a 50-year-old Austrian woman, travels to this vacation paradise.

Finally, also in Cannes but away from the cameras, Kivu Ruhorahoza presented his plans for his second feature film ‘Jomo’ (you remember we loved his ‘Grey Matter’) in which “Jomo, a young gay Kenyan man named after Jomo Kenyatta, the father of Kenyan independence, gets deported from London after ten years spent in the United Kingdom. His arrival coincides with that of famous American televangelist Rev. Stanley Renge who is organizing a month-long “I Want You for Heaven!” Christian campaign. Meanwhile, men from a Washington-based organization are busy meeting high profile local politicians.” Promising stuff.