sambaDuring the Christmas holidays I went to see Samba with a friend of mine. A French film; we felt so cultured. I mostly went to get my money’s worth out of my Pathé Unlimited pass, if I’m completely honest. I hadn’t spent much time at the cinema; the Philosophy of Science exams had kept me chained to my desk all month. Why Samba? It starred “that funny black guy, you know, the one from Intouchables”, and there were no good seats left for the latest Hobbit film. Little did I know, that after watching Samba, the very thought of almost having gone to see that over-sold blockbuster instead actually made me cringe. I won’t even talk about the acting (it was brilliant); what really deserves some attention is its urgent relevance. Set in modern-day Paris, Alice, a burnt-out senior executive, volunteers at a refugee centre as part of her therapy. Here, she meets Samba, a goofily charming immigrant from Senegal who has been in France for over 10 years, working low-pay jobs to, like many immigrants, support his family back home. She is immediately drawn to him (and not just because he has the body of an ebony demi-god) but for the greater part of the film we are left to wonder whether something will actually happen between the two – and I won’t spoil. What’s really important is the inside look we get in the life of legal and illegal immigrants in a Western metropolis. To me, this was conflictingly eye-opening and recognisable at the same, as my family has for some time been quite intimate with a family from Sierra-Leone, struggling to get their residence permit here. More stories such as this one should be shared. More films such as these should be made. Because of course this isn’t a Parisian issue, or a French issue; it is global reality. This is the world we live in, and most of us are completely oblivious to it. However, this film is not one big heavy, guilt-filled reality check. It is remarkably light-hearted and funny and that, to me is what makes it stand out. Sure, the plot is made up of half a dozen Shakespearean coincidences, but all in all I would absolutely recommend this film. It is sad and hilarious, sweet and exciting, romantic yet real – and it stars that funny black guy, you know, the one from Intouchables. 9/10

By Anne Oosthuizen


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