It’s scheduled to make its world prenmiere at Cannes 2012 later this month – a project I’ve been following since I 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).
And following its Cannes premiere, it’ll head to the Sidney Film Festival in Australia where I found a longer, more informative synopsis on the film, which is described briefly as a story about undocumented immigrants:
La Pirogue is the moving story of a group of Senegalese men who set off for Europe on a simple fishing boat, hoping for a better life. Baye Laye is the captain of a fishing pirogue who dreams of earning a better living for his family. When he is offered to lead one of the many pirogues that head towards Europe via the Canary Islands, he reluctantly accepts the job, knowing the dangers that lie ahead. Adroitly capturing the dilemmas facing these desperate men, La Pirogue is a powerful depiction of a story that is internationally relevant.
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.
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.
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 trailer yet, though I stumbled across the below (and above) still images on the web: