Dosunmu's 'Restless City,' the best African film of 2011?

I finally got to see director Andrew Dosunmu’s debut feature film, “Restless City,” this summer (at the Urban World Film Festival). The story, part American dream narrative, revolves around a young West African immigrant, Djibril, who lives in Harlem, trying to start his record career, while selling CDs and delivering packages and mail on his moped. Djibril (played by Sy Alassane) falls for a beautiful woman, Trini (Nicole Grey), who also happens to be a prostitute. Djibril wants to rescue her from her pimp, with devastating consequences. But that narrative is only part of the story. This film is also about how New York City is framed. This is a beautiful but hard city for the growing African immigrant population who reside in its margins. And the city is a star of the film; whether the small uptown apartments, subway cars, dance clubs, hairdressers, etcetera. The actors speak in Wolof, English, French and Yoruba. The pace is slow but engaging, there’s a certain lyricism to it and it is beautifully shot (that’s the work of director of photography Bradford Young). It is also stylish (the costume designer is Mobolaji Dawodu of The Fader) and it has a soundtrack of Don Cherry‘s jazz. In my book it is probably the best African film this year.

Like his film, Andrew is always on the move.  (Check out his fashion photography for The Fader or his earlier music videos for Janet Jackson or Common or his book about African football). Word is he is already working on his next film: a feature about an immigrant family, titled “Ma’George” and starring Isaac de Bankole and Angelique Kidjo and with Bradford Young as d.p.

* We have some top 10-lists coming next week, but I wanted to get in a word first.

Further Reading

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Madiba and Mali

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A devil’s deal

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Red and Black

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The Dar es Salaam years

In the early 1970s, Walter Rodney, expelled from Jamaica, took a post in Tanzania. In Leo Zeilig’s new book, he captures those exciting, but also difficult years and how it formed Rodney.

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The party question

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The missing pieces

Between melancholy, terror, and disillusion, Petit Pays is a groundbreaking and eye-opening take on one of the darkest pages of African history, one that is often misunderstood in the West.