Senegalese Peasants Set Out for Spain in Seafaring Tale of Survival
La Pirogue (2012)
In Theaters: Jan 23, 2013 Limited
Directed By: Moussa Tour
Written By: ric N v , David Bouchet
Distributor: ArtMattan Productions
Art House & International, Drama
In French with subtitles
Running time: 87 minutes
Reviewed by Kam Williams
You might find the title of this movie a little misleading, since to most people a “pierogi” is a puffy Polish delicacy stuffed with potatoes, sauerkraut and ground meat. However, the similar-sounding “pirogue” is also the name of the flat-bottomed, wooden boat used by West African fishermen for centuries.
Directed by Moussa Toure, the fact-based drama revolves around 30 Senegalese peasants, 29 men and 1 woman (Mame Astou Diallo), who make a break for Spain by sea in search of a better life. Because of their country’s bad economy, even the fishing industry is dying, which means some ship owners have turned to using their vessels to smuggle needy refugees to Europe.
The story was inspired by the over 30,000 souls who attempted the transoceanic voyage between 2005 and 2010, and it is dedicated to the 5,000 of them that perished in the financial freedom flotillas. The captain of the pirogue at the center of the adventure is Baye Laye (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye), a married man who requests that his wife be paid his fee of a million Francs before his departure on the dangerous journey.
The boat is outfitted with a radio, a GPS device, 260 gallons of gasoline, 80 gallons of water and 300 pounds of rice. And the passengers have brought along musical instruments like bongos, bells and a kalimba to break up the monotony of what they expect to be long boring days.
Not so fast, kimosabe. After passing the point of no return, they encounter a host of horrifying ordeals ranging from homesickness to madness to sexual tension to infighting to a hurricane to leaks to starvation. Ultimately, their plight becomes so overwhelming that they end up praying to Allah for divine intervention.
A compelling cross of Life of Pi and Lifeboat, a seafaring tale of survival sans the Bengal tiger and Tallulah Bankhead.