It’s a few days away from the Cannes film festival. This year the festival is even more special because it is the 65th edition . Of the 22 films up for the Palme d’Or, which were selected from 1,779 films, the only film from the African continent is from Egypt.
Baad el Mawkeaa (After the Battle) by the Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah is centered on the Egyptian revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime last February and how this changed one man’s life. Tahrir Square has occupied the news headlines for the last one-year, as a place of defiance, hope but also as a place where brutality of falling regime was brought live to living rooms of millions across the world.
The political changes in North Africa are surely an important part of history and how these affected the rest of the continent is still being debated. For instance some countries like Senegal, Cameroon, Uganda, Swaziland saw waves of protests, they may not have changed regimes but these protests offered new thinking with lessons well learnt from the Egyptian revolution.
After the Battle making it to the official selection for the top prize at Cannes film festival is great success for a story that many people on the continent are now familiar with. It will be even greater for this historic moment from Egypt in an event that Nasrallah’s film wins the Palme d’Or.
Also to look out for at Cannes from the Africa continent is Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Toure’s 3rd feature film in 20 years, La Pirogue (The Pirogue) which will compete in the ”Un certain regard”.
This is a story of African immigrants risking all to cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe in hope of a better life. The film shows a fishing village on the outskirts of Dakar, the Senegalese capital where immigrants set off to Canary Islands.
The synopsis of the mostly French production, described briefly as a story about illegal immigrants, reads like this:
A fishing village in the outer suburbs of Dakar. Many pirogues set off from there to reach the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands, after an often deadly crossing. Baye Laye is captain of a fishing pirogue. He knows the sea. He doesn’t want to leave, but he has no choice. He has to take 30 men to Spain. These men don’t all understand each other. Some have never even seen the sea and nobody knows what awaits them…
Illegal migrantion is a problem that both African and European countries have looked for various ways to contain. Last year alone the Canary Islands received a total of 340 illegal immigrants, an increase of 144 people compared to 2010, where 196 people arrived illegally in ‘cayuco’ boats.
On the whole in Spain, the illegal immigration by sea saw an increase of 49.8% last year, a total of 5,443 people but also in the same year 30,792 were people repatriated to their countries of origin from Spain, 2.08% more than in 2010.
The Pirogue is just a glimpse into the increasing challenge of illegal migration to Europe from the African continent.
The 2012 Frontex Annual Risk Analysis shows that there were 64 000 detections in 2011 in the Central Mediterranean linked directly to the events in North Africa.
The report also shows irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean towards Spain remains low, but has been steadily increasing and accounted for 6% of the EU’s detections in 2011. For now there’s cooperation between Spain and Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali and bilateral agreements and the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. However the report warns the situation remains critically dependent of the implementation of effective return agreements between Spain and western African countries.
The Pirogue at Cannes will give us an idea on what it means to be an illegal immigrant and how gripping the killer journeys that many dare to take.
The other film is L“Les Chevaux De Dieu” (God’s Horses), a new movie by Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch will also compete in the “Un certain regard”. This is about the story of attacks on Casablanca (May 2003). Again the film mirrors the terrorism threats that many African countries are grappling with.
Also Bernard-Henri Levy’s Le Serment de Tobrouk (The Oath of Tobruk) is part of the Official Selection and there will be the special screening on May 25. The films tells a story of Libya and the fall of Muamar Gaddafi.