Today Sabrina gives us her latest big screen review with Samba.
If you’ve watched the incredible film The Intouchables, which did the rounds at the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival a few years ago, you’ll know why Omar Sy may be the most enigmatic actor to hit the screens in a really long time. I had the opportunity to see his magic once again recently with the movie, Samba.
Samba, directed and produced by the same team as The Intouchables, a dream cast featuring Charlottle Gainsbourg, and tells the story of Samba Cisse, an undocumented/illegal migrant from Senegal, who after spending ten years living and working in Paris, receives a permanent job offer which he reports to Immigration authorities, only to be told the terrifying news that he has X amount of days to leave France because of a bureaucratic error.
This then starts the chain of events which brings multiple stories together, including the introduction of Alice (Gainsbourg), a volunteer immigration officer, currently on sabbatical from her corporate job for a year and the permanent immigration officer Manu (Izia Higelin), a feisty, no nonsense, mentor to Alice.
The scene where Alice and Manu first meet Samba at the detention/holding centre for migrants and refugees conveys so much of what’s to come. Despite the uncertainly that lies ahead for him, Samba appears optimistic and patient, even soothing Alice, nervous on her first day at the job. It’s clear from these scenes that Alice suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder and that Samba may mean more to her in the future. The chemistry between these two amazing actors is so palpable and the relationship, which simmers and grows, sometimes hilariously throughout the film is beautiful to watch.
When Samba receives a permanent order to leave France, he leaves the detention centre and goes back to his elderly uncle’s place, who himself is a permanent resident, to lay low for a year until he can apply for citizenship again.
From this point in the movie, you really get a sense of the heart of the story, the plight of immigrants in France. Samba’s future is on a knife’s edge, with his family in Senegal relying on him for their sole income and the chance of being deported at every turn. This movie is definitely not a rose-tinted view of life in Paris, but that doesn’t mean it lacked any of the charm that we expect from a movie set in the city of love.
The love here isn’t set against a backdrop of accordions and crème brulees, but shows itself in the tenderness between Samba and his uncle, who gives him his permanent identity card, knowing it could send him out of the country, or when Samba’s friend Wilson (the charismatic Tahar Rahim) another illegal migrant from Algeria, risks his deportation to help him get a job.
Despite the serious issues explored in the film, this is no grim tale. Like The Intouchables, the directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have taken a beautiful, balanced approach with their story telling, showing the gritty, sometimes perilous reality of living as a migrant (both undocumented and permanent) and the humorous, conflicting, loving relationships that can form even when people are both figuratively and literally worlds apart.
I loved this film, maybe not as much as The Intouchables, but the performance by everyone, especially Gainsbourg and Sy are so alluring and the different stories and situations faced by the migrant characters so compelling, it really is a must watch.
I’m giving Samba, 4 Fantales out of 5.