Back to IndieWire

Watch Award-Winning, Quietly Engaging, Tragic Immigrant Tale, ‘Oury Jalloh’

Watch Award-Winning, Quietly Engaging, Tragic Immigrant Tale, 'Oury Jalloh'

I like the quiet simplicity of this topical short from German-Colombian filmmaker Simon Jaikiriuma Paetau, titled “Oury Jalloh.”

As you will learn at the beginning of the film, Oury Jalloh was a Sierra Leonean refugee who died in a fire in a police cell in Dessau, Germany, in 2005, with his hands and feet chained to a bed in the cell. The case caused national and international outrage. 

The short version of the story goes… In 2007, two officers were charged with causing bodily harm with fatal consequences and with involuntary manslaughter, respectively, but were acquitted in December 2008 for want of evidence. However, the Federal Court of Justice annulled one of the acquittals, and since January 2011, a different court has taken up the case. According to the investigators, the fire broke out in the cell around midday. The fire alarm went off on two occasions. Noises and cries for help coming from the acoustically controlled cell were registered but ignored. Supposedly, the supervising police officer turned off the sound of the acoustic system shortly before because he could not understand a telephone conversation he was having. Only when the air-control alarm went off did he go down into the basement where the cell was located. But by that time Jalloh was found lying on a burning mattress, his body severely burned and his hands bound to the bed frame.

A terrible way to die, and a story that I don’t think is widely-known.

Director Paetau’s 30-minute film, made in 2007/2008, tells Oury’s story (part of it anyway) before any of the above occurred, which is important to note. I should add that the actors in the film are all Oury’s real-life friends, and non-professionals.

It’s a quiet, engaging character study – essentially an immigrant tale that ends in tragedy.

Watch the 30-minute film below:

This Article is related to: Features and tagged