Review: Obscure Night - Goodbye Here, Anywhere
- Sylvain George sets his gaze on a group of young migrants on the border between the African continent and Europe, shining a light on a daily existence rife with persistence, hope and painful utopias
For many African migrants fleeing a difficult life, the Spanish enclave of Melilla, in Morocco, is an ideal spot from which to dream of a better future. With persistence bordering on obsession, the group of minors led by Malik - whom Sylvain George follows with equal levels of persistence, but also modest discretion – try to travel to Europe day after day. Waiting to spread their wings, imprisoned behind real and invisible bars, the film’s protagonists create a suspended present for themselves, a semblance of “normality” sustained by ingenuity, desperation, superficial virility and a deep need to stay children. In the running for the Golden Leopard in the Locarno Film Festival’s International Competition, Obscure Night - Goodbye Here, Anywhere [+see also:
interview: Sylvain George
film profile] is the second part of a conversation initiated by the director in 2022 by way of Obscure Night - Wild Leaves (The Burning Ones, the Obstinate) [+see also:
film profile], which was presented Out of Competition in the very same festival.
Shot in majestic black and white tones which elevate the adventures of the film’s protagonists into enormous, Caravaggio-flavoured tableaux vivants, Obscure Night - Goodbye Here, Anywhere focuses on a reality the western world would rather not see and shines a light on unexpected, desperate and strong dynamics, dissident dreams which transcend geographical boundaries, and sparks of life feeding into a fire which no migration policy could ever possibly extinguish.
Punctuated by a wise editorial approach which becomes an actual language all of its own, the film is built around a series of episodes which end with the screen fading to black, as if an eye closing before finding the courage to re-open. Because what Obscure Night - Goodbye Here, Anywhere depicts is anything but easy viewing. Forcing us to watch what unfolds on the streets of Melilla, and far more, for three hours, while most of us are safely sleeping in our beds, Sylvain George once again turns filmmaking into a political act.
As he distances us from what we know, confronting us with the scars, hopes and fears of those who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place, the French director shatters all of our illusions.
Resilient in spite of everything, the film’s young protagonists demonstrate how hope is stronger than anything else. Rejected by a community who would sooner they quite simply disappeared, Malik and his friends build themselves an “alternative” and fragile world which coexists alongside the “real” world without sharing its temporality. Continually forced to flee, these youngsters filmed by Sylvain George don’t differentiate between day or night, or sleeping or waking states. Lacking any privilege or social identity, all they have is the freedom to construct their own utopia where there’s no such thing as barriers (whether geographic, linguistic or social). Like mythological animals, these youngsters subsequently find themselves sleeping in the branches of a tree or in the gaps between rocks, in the stomach of a city which has learned to welcome them despite the protestations of its inhabitants.
Their scars, examined head-on but always with respect, and caressed by those familiar with the pain behind them, become the diary of lives which desperately need to be lived. But, far from any miserabilism, Sylvain George extols the poetry which resides in desperation, and highlights a thirst for life which nothing – not even rejection or repression - can extinguish.
(Translated from Italian)
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