la pirogue

The Pirogue by Moussa Touré #Cannes2012

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While certain of the super-rich lounge on the decks of luxury yachts with nothing better to do than show that they are there, Moussa Touré is presenting a film in which Africans die aboard their make-shift craft attempting to reach the coast of Spain, their Eldorado. Because things are bound to be better elsewhere, because their own country offers them no way out, because they want to get away from poverty, unemployment, and despair.

The film opens with a fight scene typical of Senegal illustrating the struggle of the population, for according to Moussa Touré “it is in struggle that we all meet our true selves.” Next we meet Baye Laye, the future captain of the pirogue. He is the obvious choice, even though he does not want to go, all too aware of the overwhelming danger facing them; but in the end he accepts the inevitable. He gets aboard with 29 ill-fated shipmates, some from other ethnic groups, speaking different languages, but all buoyed by the hope of reaching their destination safe and sound, ready to start a new life.

la pirogue

Although the action takes place outdoors and on the open sea, Moussa Touré is actually presenting a kind of dead end as he puts us on his boat to show us the horror of the crowded space, the stifling heat, the palpable tensions and growing distress of the passengers. Certain silences are also eloquent and leave us speechless, powerless spectators of the drama unfolding on the screen.

Will their passage through hell be successful? Will they be among the happy few who reach the promised land and build a new future? Is hope even a possibility when there is no Eldorado waiting for them at the end of the trip? This is our worry throughout, hoping they will make it, that all of this is not in vain, that their courage, their determination, and their struggle will be rewarded.

To find out, you will have to go see it at the cinema.

In his remarks before the showing, Moussa Touré said, “I am an African who will be part of history.” Let’s hope that this film will make it possible and that he will have made a difference, so that the beautiful African pirogues will never again serve to transport human misery.

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