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Cannes 2012 Preview - Moussa Touré’s "La Pirogue" (On The Deadly Trip To Lands Of Opportunity)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 19, 2012 at 10:27AM

And we're off... Cannes 2012 profiles begin, starting with this one, which I actually first wrote about in December.
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And we're off... Cannes 2012 profiles begin, starting with this one, which I actually first wrote about in December.

Studio 37, the French production/distribution company behind critically-acclaimed fare like last year's The Artist and Black Gold, acquired theatrical distribution, video and international sales rights to Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Touré’s 3rd feature film in 20 years, La Pirogue (The Pirogue).

The synopsis for the mostly French production, described briefly as a story about undocumented immigrants, reads like this:

A fishing village in the outer suburbs of Dakar. Many pirogues set off from there to reach the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands, after an often deadly crossing. Baye Laye is captain of a fishing pirogue. He knows the sea. He doesn’t want to leave, but he has no choice. He has to take 30 men to Spain. These men don’t all understand each other. Some have never even seen the sea and nobody knows what awaits them...

By the way, to help give you some idea of why this sea crossing can be deadly... a pirogue is a small, light, flat-bottomed boat that can only hold a few people at a time (let alone 30), used traditionally as fishing boats, and are certainly not meant for long distance travel. They are usually propelled by paddles, although motors are increasingly being used in some regions. The trip from Dakar, Senegal, to the Canary Islands is roughly 900 miles, depending on your mode of travel.

Need I say more?

These trips aren't uncommon, as these men, who often have to save up money to pay for the ride (roughly the equivalent of $2,000 according to one report I read), seek better lives for themselves; some don't make it all the way through to their destination (the Red Cross estimates that as many as 1000+ people die attempting to make the 900-mile crossing each year. Another piece of news I read reported on a boat with the mummified bodies of 11 men found 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, drifting. It is thought that workers originally boarded the vessel in Senegal).

And those who are lucky enough to make it are, especially in recent years, met with hostility by the Island's locals. Often waiting for them, once they disembark, are officers of the law who pack the immigrants on to buses and transfer them to the courts, and then overloaded detention centers.

So it's a really a matter of life and death, which should provide for a compelling story (or compelling stories) for a feature film.

I'm unfortunately not familiar with director Moussa's previous 2 features, and haven't been able to gain access to them.

Regardless, La Pirogue, which was shot over 2 months earlier last year in Senegal, is said to be enjoying a lot of buzz in France, and will soon make its debut the grandest film festival stage of all - in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, which runs from May 16 to 27.

No media on it yet unfortunately (like stills, clips, a trailer), except for the sales poster below; but I'll be watching from anything that turns up online, which I expect will happen in coming weeks, leading up to the festival.


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