French hous­ing com­plex story ‘Ga­garine’ shows pain of los­ing home

Arab News - - &finally - Gau­ta­man Bhaskaran Chen­nai

A home is not just bricks and mor­tar but a place where mem­o­ries are made — of one’s child­hood, one’s joys, and yes, some­times one’s sor­rows.

One of 56 of­fi­cial ti­tles se­lected by the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, which was can­celed this year be­cause of the coro­n­avirus, was “Ga­garine,” screened at the Cannes Mar­ket on a vir­tual plat­form from June 22-26. Di­rected by debu­tant Fanny Li­atard and Jeremy Trouilh, “Ga­garine” is a bit­ter­sweet French story of a hous­ing com­plex on the out­skirts of Paris. In­au­gu­rated and named after Rus­sian cos­mo­naut

Yuri Ga­garin, the com­plex is found to be in a state of dis­re­pair and faces de­mo­li­tion.

But 16-year-old black teen

Yuri (played charis­mat­i­cally by new­comer Alseni Bathily) re­fuses to leave. He has nowhere to go after his mother aban­doned him. Yuri (prob­a­bly named after the cos­mo­naut) is a good handy­man, and with two friends, Hous­sam (Jamil McCraven) and Diana (Lyna Khoudri), tries to carry out re­pairs with sec­ond­hand ma­te­ri­als be­fore the in­spec­tion. He fails, but is in­spired to recre­ate a space­ship in the build­ing’s base­ment. Pas­sion­ate about astron­omy, he also has a tele­scope and great imag­i­na­tion to re­build his place as a sci-fi model. “Ga­garine” is an apt com­men­tary – a fic­tion­al­ized ac­count of a real in­ci­dent – on how marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties live on hope, strug­gling to sur­vive against tremen­dous odds.

In many ways Yuri seems to em­body the spirit of the com­mu­nity and the com­plex, and we see the be­gin­nings of the boy’s pas­sion for space when the di­rec­tors in­clude archival footage of Yuri Ga­garin vis­it­ing the com­plex to the cheer­ing of crowds, many of whom have been lifted from a mis­er­able ex­is­tence to live in the sky-high build­ing.

There are lovely move­ments in the movie, in which the real and un­real merge, lend­ing them­selves into a “cock­pit” ro­mance be­tween Yuri and Diana, where she fi­nally no­tices life­sav­ing Morse Code mes­sages from him that she her­self had once taught him.

To­gether with a su­perb score by com­posers Evgueni and Sacha Galper­ine, and Amine Bouhafa, “Ga­garine” presents a haunt­ingly memorable pic­ture of how the loss of a home some­times be so trau­matic. Had the fes­ti­val not been side­lined by the coro­n­avirus, “Ga­garine” would have cer­tainly cre­ated a lot of buzz.

File/AFP In­sta­gram

The 25-year-old was born Lau­reen Zouai to a French mother and an Al­ge­rian fa­ther. In ad­di­tion to Adi­das, the singer has also starred in cam­paigns for Coach and Tommy Hil­figer. AFP ‘Mu­lan’ is set to open on Aug. 21. AFP


‘Ga­garine’ screened at the vir­tual Cannes Mar­ket from June 22-26.

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