EXILES (France / 2004)
*A 2006 U.S. Release*
After exploring his gypsy roots in films such as Latcho Drom (1993) and The Crazy Stranger (1997), French filmmaker Tony Gatlif delves into his Algerian past with Exiles (Exils), a film for which he won the Best Director award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Gatlif, who was born in Algeria from a Roma mother and an Algerian father, favors an energetic, dynamic approach to his filmmaking, and that along with his musical prowess have produced a few visual and aural feasts in the past. Featuring many similar tendencies, Exiles stars Roman Duris as Zano, a young bohemian musician from a pied-noir family, who impulsively decides to take a trip to Algeria in order to locate his roots. Accompanying him on the journey is Naima (Lubna Azabal), his similarly unsettled girlfriend of N. African descent. As the couple travel through France, Andalucia, and Morocco on their way, they begin to discover themselves and each other, not to mention the way they are perceived by others. Naima, especially, is surprised by the interest her Muslim name often generates, though she chooses to remain oblivious of its nature. While Gatlifs attempts to connect and deepen the characters within the cultural/historical perspective produce mixed results, hes able to expose their lack of foundation, a fear that internally originates once they reach their destination. An instinctual filmmaker with Kusturician sensibilities, Gatlif has staged a few bravura musical sequences in the past, but none as exceptional nor important as the single 10-mintue shot near the end of the film, which goes a long way to prove that music truly is the food for the soul.
*EXILES premiered in-competition at Cannes '04. Now available on DVD in the U.S.
*Tony Gatlif's latest feature, Transylvania, has been selected as the closing night film at the upcoming Cannes festival.