Adama: Redefining reality through fantasy
by Samuel Antichi
- French director Simon Rouby takes us on an epic animated journey from the plains of Africa to the frontlines of World War I
The titular star of French director and screenwriter Simon Rouby’s first feature-length film, Adama [+see also:
film profile], is a 12-year-old boy who lives in a remote, cloistered, cliff-walled village in West Africa. Out beyond the safety of his peaceful shelter lies “the world of the winds”, as local people have named it, the kingdom of wicked spirits hungry for war, where the Nassaras reign. One day, Samba, Adama’s elder brother, is feared to be possessed during a local initiation ritual, and he consequently runs away from the village in order to join the Nassaras as a warrior. Afterwards, Adama decides to leave the protective cliffs for the very first time in order to search for his brother and bring him back, thus facing the outside world. As he begins his courageous, epic journey across continents and braves myriad perils, Adama encounters many people, such as Abdou, a lucid griot who acts as a sort of spiritual guide throughout his journey; the unlikely soldier Djo; and Maximin, a young, low-level street urchin. The endless, adventurous challenges that he embarks upon will eventually change his life forever.
Rouby adopts an unusual evocative and nostalgic style of animation by combining CGI human figures, whose appearance is based on laser-scanned sculptures, with a series of still images. After the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, where it won the Best of Fest Award, the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, this emotional journey is now screening at the Stockholm International Film Festival in the Spotlight Section: Migration, intended for provocative films that investigate the complex topic of migration.
Animation can be a powerful way to depict personal stories, as it boasts distinctive aesthetic and narrative characteristics that have the capacity to show what is otherwise difficult to represent with live-action images. Adama’s adventure resonates with contemporary issues: one can no longer make out the original images used in the making of the film, rather like memories that have been lost due to trauma or horrendous experiences. Adama's imaginative coming-of-age odyssey is inspired by the real-life stories of West Africans who were recruited by the French Army to fight in Europe during World War I. Our hero crosses a Europe gripped by war, to the hell of the frontline of the infernal Battle of Verdun. Through this passage into adulthood from the strikingly sunny and peaceful plains of Africa to the bleak, busy streets of Paris, Adama is forced to face up to the modern world and the horrors of war in order to save his older brother. The allegorical subtext triggers reflections in the viewers’ minds, leading them to retrieve images and situations that affect collective memory and identity. By focusing on a disturbing historical event, the movie successfully redefines reality through fantasy.