Andrew Dosunmu’s first feature film reconfigures the classic immigrant narrative, infusing it with new energy that befits the postnational world. Djibril, an aspiring young musician from Senegal, lives in New York. Although he dreams of greatness, imagining the day his own child might be president of the United States, his path is unstructured, and he glories in the chaos of the street. When Djibril meets Trini, a prostitute under the control of Bekay, the local loan shark, his life assumes new purpose and momentum; however, whether Djibril and Trini can outrun Bekay’s nefarious influence is another story.
Attentive to the symbols and dynamics of the Pan-African immigrant community, Dosunmu deftly sidesteps sentimentality by presenting an America that diverges from the Horatio Alger myth and a beautifully photographed New York, suffused with visual and aural textures that powerfully evoke the isolation of a newcomer adrift in the world’s most international city. [Synopsis courtesy of the Sundance Institute]
Director: Andrew Dosunmu
Screenwriter: Eugene Gussenhoven
Cast: Dania Gurira, Anthony Okungbowa, Sy Alassane, Sky Grey, Babs Olusanmokun
Executive Producer: Muna Elfituri, David Raymond, Tony Okungbowa
Producer: Katie Mustard, Matt Parker
Cinematographer: Bradford Young
Editor: Oriana Soddu
Responses courtesy of “Restless City” director Andrew Dosunmu
A need for new images…
I came to filmmaking from a need to depict the images of a people whose lives are rarely seen on screen, who live ordinary lives and go through the trials of all mankind… every day struggles to earn a living, enjoy life, love, and dream. Ex-patriots who live outside the system, yet contribute to the fabric of the city, in a vacuum.
A set of characters living in their own world…
The script was the catalyst and inspiration for the film. I felt it perfectly captured the nuance of the young and displaced in NYC. The characters have made their own isolated society, while yearning to both assimilate and go home. Their world is as unpredictable as the larger society.
“Empowered characters that force change in their own lives…”
I immersed myself in the community and observed the trials of being displaced and the myriad consequences of displacement. I understood how people are forced to live to have a piece of the American dream, and how valuable the opportunity to come here and pursue your dreams really is. I’m an immigrant, too, so the idea of the “Restless city” is very familiar to me. I am part of the culture. As a photographer and filmmaker, i want to see empowered characters that force change in their own lives.
Representing a community…
The biggest challenge was obtaining funds to make the film, and being as truthful as possible to the characters. Djibril and Trini are both played by young actors who came to the U.S. with talent and aspiration, like so many others. The actors bring a special, informed quality to the roles – being immigrants themselves. My crew was crucial: a like-minded team that understood the story and the community it represented.
A film that audiences can relate to…
I expect that Sundance audiences, and audiences every where, will feel that “Restless City” is a film about every day people who are like themselves. I expect the audience to feel it is a story about the human condition, about anybody who has a dream. It’s a story about love, about finding love in an unexpected place. It is a story about people coming together to make a home away from home, with a new family whose common thread is sacrifice and longing.
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the World Dramatic & Documentary Competitions and NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]