The Pirogue is the sadly well-known wooden fishing boat which serves the illegal immigration crossing from West Africa to Europe. The Senegalese director Moussa Touré returned to feature films after a series of documentaries. Those documentaries already showed the ability of the director to catch some African social questions in chronicles of individual destinies: dealing with polygamy by filming his father and his wives (5 X 5, 2004), dealing with the issue of homelessness by filming a group of street kids in Brazzaville (Poussières de villes, 2004)…
Taking on one of the serious contemporary problems of his native country, the death of venturing migrants to Europe in the ocean, Moussa Touré chooses to do a fictional drama and turns it into a powerful and surprisingly colorful movie.
The protagonist, Baye Laye is an experienced fisherman and family man who is being forced by economic and moral pressures to be the captain of a refugee boat. After some negotiations, Baye Laye takes on board around 30 souls in his small pirogue. But the crossing soon becomes a nightmare.
Opening the movie, the oiled bodies of the Senegalese fighters who execute their lucky dance, decorated with their grigri, symbolize the cruel fate of illegal immigrants. They are the metaphor of the belief surrounding the movie: the belief of a better life in Europe even if it means risking one’s own life or the belief in the prayers, the sacred animals or the grigri which take away the boat from the waves.
The bodies also represent the paradoxes that lead the people to leave their native land. The bodies framed by Moussa Touré are a blend of beauty and wounds. Thus, the muscled bodies of the fishermen will become weaker as they will fight against the ocean.
Finally, the fighters’ bodies also symbolize the individual confrontations that give rhythm to the movie. The closing atmosphere of the tiny boat creates various confrontations: older against younger brothers, Guineans against Senegalese, men against women, city dwellers against country folk. But since the passengers’ situation becomes more and more hopeless in the middle of the ocean, those quarrels intensify as much as they disappear.
The quality of the movie resides in its beauty and the tenderness of the director regarding his characters. The omnipresence of the beauty underlines the nonsense of those fates, leaving their beautiful country, which doesn’t give them a bright future, to endure the sufferings of immigration from the trip to the hosting conditions in Europe.
By choosing the form of a classical drama, emphasized by a great soundtrack (made by Prince Ibrahima Ndour), Moussa Touré proposes a tender and respectful tribute to those who risk the danger of the ocean to find a better life and thus, delivers an incredible African look at an urgent issue.
The Pirogue – Moussa Touré – 2012 – 87’