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May 14, 2007

Exiles

exiles-2.jpg

Exils
Tony Gatlif - 2004
Image Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Francis Ford Coppola was in Miami Beach last night to talk a bit about filmmaking with students, and to present a new documentary about his filming Youth without Youth. The full article is posted at GreenCine Daily. One point Coppola stressed was the idea of using film to learn about other cultures, as a means for different people to communicate with each other. The consequence of the blockbuster film culture that currently exists in the U.S. is manifested in the general lack of interest in other cultures as well as the inability to imagine differing ways of life. One reason why I have been seeing the films by Tony Gatlif since Latcho Drom is because of his look at marginalized people.

Exiles is different from the previous films I've seen by Tony Gatlif. The sense of joy that is usually present has been replaced by a more serious sense of purpose. Like Gatlif's other films, the narrative follows a road trip involving gypsy and nomadic cultures. Unlike earlier Gatlif films, there is a pervasive sense of alienation, of the main characters, like the film's viewers, always being outsiders. One of the characters even states, "I'm an alien wherever I go."

A young couple, Zano and Naima, decide to go to Algeria from Paris, walking, sneaking train rides, stowing away on a boat. For Zano it is an opportunity to visit the home of his parents and grandparents, French settlers in Algeria. Naima, French of Arabic descent, feels more ambivalent about visiting the area. As the couple works their way south, the land becomes less green, ultimately giving way to a rocky desert. Along the way they encounter Algerians seeking their fortune in Paris, a gypsy family, and flamenco musicians in Seville.

Music has always been a crucial part of Tony Gatlif's films. His characters are often musicians. In addition to co-writing and directing, Gatlif collaborated on the score with original music that incorporates rap, folk and Arabian classical themes. If people are not singing or playing music, they are listening to music, lost in their own world with headphones. In Algeria, the couple observe a trance in which Naima participates.

The original intent of Exiles was based on Tony Gatlif's own desire to revisit Algeria. The film took on an extra layer of drama as there was an earthquake in Algeria while the film crew was in Seville. The real life event echoes the sense of impermanence, transience and fragility. People, places and relationships come and go. Exiles questions the concept of home as a destination and a physical place. As Gatlif also discovered in revisiting Algeria, the connections between people are what is most important.

Posted by peter at May 14, 2007 05:07 PM