Cannes Critics Week kicks off in Cairo with a French film on African migrants
Nourhan Tewfik , Thursday 17 Sep 2015
The week opened with a screening of French film Hope by director Boris Lojkine at the French Institute

Cannes' La Semaine de la Critique (Critics Week), organised by art-house cinema Zawya, Cimatheque Alternative Film Centre and the French Institute, opened on Wednesday 16 September and is scheduled to run until 21 September.

The week’s line-up includes eight feature films and a selection of short films that made it to the annual talent-spotting event from 2010-2014. The screenings take place at three of Cairo’s film venues: Zawya, Karim Cinema and the French Institute.

A story about Sub-Saharan African migrants

We are at the French Institute in Mounira where the French film Hope (Boris Lojkine, 2013) will make its debut screening in the presence of Critics Week programme manager Remi Bonhomme. Hope received the French director/screenwriter award at the 67 Cannes Festival’s Semaine de la Critique.

Hope’s story is a poignant one, tugging at the bravery Sub-Saharan African migrants possess in the face of the cruelty, greed, and sexual abuse that come as part of their aspired journey to Europe.

The Nigerian Hope (played by Endurance Newton) and the Cameroonian Leonard (Justin Wang) are among a group of African migrants heading north in the Sahara Desert en route to Europe. Leonard comes to Hope’s rescue before a group of migrants attempt to rape her, and later when he refuses to leave her behind in the desert. A profoundly humanistic act, Leonard’s act of kindness strikes the audience, especially given its unfolding against a bitter backdrop.

Next, the couple embarks on a long journey to the Mediterranean, during which they must experience the power politics that rule illegal migration. In their journey, the couple comes face to face with a brutal, inhumane system of exploitation where so-called "chairmen" rule over these migration stations, forcing migrants to steal, work and embrace prostitution in order to secure entry into their aspired European destinations. But the film is also in essence a love story, one that audaciously ripens in the midst of a cruel world.

As the love story buds, Hope and Leonard encounter problems with the ghetto’s power politics system, running away from one destination to the other. Despite the few pulsating scenes, tranquil cinematography prevails, depicting the gloominess that underpins the main characters’ lives.

Remi Bonhomme reflects on Hope

Originally a documentary filmmaker, Lojkine perfects an amalgam of documentary realism and fiction in Hope.

During an introduction that preceded the film screening, Bonhomme explained that Lojkine's ability to paint a picture so raw and genuine was a result of his extensive stay in Morocco,where he met with many Sub-Saharan migrants. In fact, as Bonhomme proceeded to explain, the director chose real-life migrants to join the film’s crew, except for the two main characters.

“He tells us a story that is very close to the characters he’s presenting,” Bonhomme asserted before adding that the director also engaged the migrants themselves in the script-writing process.

Bonhomme also shared some reflections after the film screening, which was followed by a Q&A session. As he put it, when the Cannes’ Critics Week crew selected this film two years ago, they were “very moved by this issue that was not present in the news as it is today. We were quite amazed with how the director managed to take us into this reality, but not with the typical distance that documentary usually creates between you as a viewer and the reality you’re seeing.”

“Personally this film moved me a lot,” he went on. “It moved me beyond this issue, especially with how the director tackled it as a fiction while putting real faces to the story.”

Hope will be screened again at Zawya on 21 September. Check the Critics Week full programme here.

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