by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2018: Ever-faithful to his values of simplicity and truth, Philippe Faucon puts his name to a clear-cut film exploring the life of a Senegalese man living in France without his family
Continuing his ongoing portrayal of the realities of life for immigrants in France, through fiction films which never fail to astound in their integrity, Philippe Faucon hits the bullseye yet again with Amin [+see also:
interview: Philippe Faucon
film profile], unveiled in the 50th edition of the Directors’ Fortnight during the 71st Cannes Film Festival. At a time where a great many filmmakers favour artistic coups de force or flirt with genre cinema in their depictions of society, the modest, artisanal approach of this French director (who has an expert, stripped-back approach to filmmaking) not only permits a true-to-life, human portrayal, but also allows for an authentic and finely-balanced portrait of situations and dilemmas that often fall victim to heavy clichés.
Following his last film, Fatima [+see also:
interview: Philippe Faucon
film profile], which focused on integration, Philippe Faucon fixes his eye this time round on the subject of immigrant workers in France who have left their families behind in their homelands, whom they only see on very rare occasions, and to whom they transfer the financial fruits of their labour, earned through jobs on building sites. This is the case for Amin (Moustapha Mbengue) who has been living in Saint-Denis, an inner suburb of Paris, in a hostel for a number of years and who only very rarely returns home to Senegal to see his wife, Aïcha (Marème N’Diaye), and their three children, aged 15, 12 and 10. Amin’s economic exile takes its toll on his wife who is very open about her feelings on the matter, so much so that she is chastised by Amin’s brothers, who remind her of the sacrifice he is making for all their sakes (each of them benefits from the money Amin makes: the purchasing of land, the construction of a house, and cash smuggled home, hidden in his socks as he passes through the airport under the menacing glare of customs).
But Amin’s life in France, and that of his fellow-immigrants with whom he shares the hostel and who come from all around the world, is also far from perfect: he suffers from loneliness, he isn’t getting to see his children grow up – they don’t know him and he no longer knows them (despite his best efforts to be a good father figure during his visits to Senegal) - and he sometimes struggles to reconnect with his wife ("we’re not in the same place"). Then, one day, walking through a small private yard, he comes across the house of Gabrielle (Emmanuelle Devos), a nurse recently separated from her poisonous husband who continues to insist on ruining her life by trying to turn their teenage daughter, Célia (Fantine Harduin), against her. All alone and unprejudiced, this woman instigates and then embarks upon an affair with Amin…
In a style which is anything but ostentatious and far removed from the world of sudden, dramatic twists, Philippe Faucon (co-writer of the screenplay with Yasmina Nini-Faucon and Mustapha Kharmoudi) seamlessly and methodically brings together a highly insightful picture, steadily incorporating the many issues inherent to this subject (exile, money, emotions, family, the invisible barriers created by skin colour and social strata, economic exploitation, sometimes at the cost of lives or, at the very least, causing isolation, the sense of solidarity that is felt in hostels and among immigrants who play a role in efforts in their countries of origin to ensure the education of future generations, etc.). With its many strengths and highly controlled, stripped-back filming style, which homes in on what counts - looks, attitudes, gestures, and words - Amin is, first and foremost, a film about people and a cinematographic project of very high standing.
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