Connect with us

Featured Review

Cannes 2024 – The Story of Souleymane ★★★★



Released: 2024 (Cannes)

Director: Boris Lojkine

Starring: Abou Sangare, Alpha Ouma, Younoussa Diallo, Emmanuel Yovanie

Preparing for an interview is a stressful period for many. That need to remember interesting aspects of your life and career and condense them in to an engaging story for an interviewer, who may hopefully provide positive feedback and that opportunity for a new job. However, Souleymane – a delivery courier from Guinea, faces a different type of interview as The Story of Souleymane unfolds two days prior to his interview for asylum. His preparation methods are unusual as there are events to commit to memory but they are part of a concocted story, which is not his own, and that is not all he has to contend with during those days as his life unravels. It is a fast-paced tale reminiscent of films such as the Dardenne Brothers’ Deux Jours, Un Nuit starring Marion Cotillard and À Plein Temps starring Laure Calamy which thrust open the precarious nature of jobs in hospitality and manual work when workers have to confront a change in circumstances and a race against time.

Director Boris Lojkine presents a relentless insight into the process of asylum seeking for individuals such as Souleymane, played by an engaging Abou Sangane. The film is Lojkine’s third and appeared within the Un Certain Regard category of the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Adopting an immersive perspective following Souleymane, side by side across the two days, as he attempts to earn money, with assistance from his community, by navigating his way through the treacherous Parisian traffic to deliver food on time and hopes not to receive any negative comments via an app. Via handheld camera work reflecting a documentary style, the viewer is drawn in to Souleymane’s world and others sharing a similar fate as without money, they cannot obtain the necessary paperwork to complete their asylum application and are unable to secure a bed for each night at a shelter located in Paris’ banlieues. As such, Souleymane continuously races back and forth in attempts to satisfy all of the demands and loopholes required in order to fulfil his dream of working in France. Lojkine implicitly raises the question of the level of the stakes at play, for asylum seekers, as matters start to implode for Souleymane by virtue of the constant pressures from others and the deadlines to meet.

Souleymane’s activities present the viewpoint of a Paris rarely seen on screen, concentrating on sub-cultures alongside the difficulty for travel across the city in a naturalistic manner with the traffic sounds maintained and the frenzy. There are also glimpses into the microcosm in which bicycle couriers occupy as they gather together at crossroads and trade banter about football and their differing cultures. The Story of Souleymane will leave viewers breathless in a bid to keep up with the pace as it is an impressive delivery of compact and efficient editing with only 94 minutes runtime.

Lojkine has crafted a tale which distinguishes itself from other films that describe the immigrant experience. Here, the viewer is presented with a thriller and a puzzle to be solved, complete with a protagonist that may be an anti-hero trying to utilise existing refugee stories to further his gain. Yet, Sangane’s expressive performance evokes sympathy with the frustrations resonating as he attempts to complete his day to day work but is thwarted by unforeseen events. This level of emotion transforms the film from appearing to gloss over the political issues with surface level commentary, with the human aspect a primary focus instead.

Lojkine’s decision to use non professional actors proves effective, providing additional substance in interweaving their stories within the plot. There are moments where the plot may seem light as it focuses on the cinematography of Paris, as couriers whizz around to meet targets but this adds to the sense of urgency embedded within The Story of Souleymane. Furthermore, Lojkine spent time with both asylum seekers and Ofpra (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People), creating a greater authenticity and rawness to the film which remains a compelling watch, that provokes further thought to the everyday plight for the undocumented.

Just For You