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Cannes Film Festival: A Double Win for Boris Lojkine’s THE STORY OF SOULEYMANE


Cannes -  L’Histoire de Souleymane (The Story of Souleymane)
As part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, French director Boris Lojkine was awarded the jury prize, and his lead actor, Abou Sangaré, received the best male actor award.

The compelling works of Boris Lojkine often explore themes of migration, identity, and socio-political issues with films that are celebrated at international film festivals for their powerful storytelling and emotional depth. In L’Histoire de Souleymane (The Story of Souleymane), spectators are introduced to a hero who pedals through the streets of Paris to deliver meals and who in two days, has to go through his asylum application interview, the key to obtaining papers.

AM: How did you imagine the film project?

BL: I started working on this film four years ago. When I first began, I did a lot of field research. I went and met people working in the delivery sector. It's rather than inventing a story where I would have said nonsense. We had to do our research, understand how it works, how this delivery business functions, how they live and where they live. I learned that most of them did not have legal papers and worked using someone else's identity and that they rent an account. They told me lots of anecdotes, lots of details, about how things work between them and their account holder. I really started with the thought that I didn't have an idea of ??a story. And it was only once I gathered the documentary material that I said to myself, “Ok, now, what are we talking about?” It was when I asked myself this question that it was obvious that the main purpose for them is having their legal papers.

AM: Tell us more about the bicycle in the film…
BL: From the start I knew I wanted to make a short film which takes place over two days. I liked the idea of ??the bicycle which is very cinematographic. It's great to film a bicycle; it goes everywhere, it's immediately very tense, in the mess of the traffic of Paris and the city. There's a lot of energy actually. And then quite quickly we decided that it was the story of someone who is preparing for an asylum application interview, and that the interview was the end of the process. It was the final scene which was also the big scene of the film.

AM: And how did you find your marvel actor Abou Sangaré?
BL: I worked closely with the casting director. We did a long process of wild casting, that is to say unprofessional research. As it was the story of a delivery man, I was looking for a young Guinean. We started in the streets of Paris, I met almost all the Guinean delivery men in Paris. In the delivery sector, there are many people from West Africa, mainly Ivoirians and Guineans. The older communities from Senegal and Mali, which are the biggest communities in France of sub-Saharan Africans, are more established and have other solidarity networks, hence they are less likely to make deliveries. In delivery, you will mostly find Ivoirians and Guineans. But between the two, Guineans ask more for asylum because there has been a political history which has caused unrest and eventually immigration. We tried to pass messages among people who have large Guinean Facebook accounts, and then we saw that there were cities that had more residents of Guineans like Rouen, Amiens and Lyon. We were looking for someone who has never acted and had no experience. And then we met them all one by one, talked with them, to find out who they are and eventually we found our actor. He truly fascinated us with his natural talent.

AM: You’ve often chosen foreign countries for your films, why so?
BL: I actually like making films far away from home. For me, a film is also an opportunity to discover something new. For this film, perhaps the most difficult thing for me was filming near my house in Paris. At the beginning I sometimes lacked that little spice of discovery. That's what I had in Morocco or Vietnam where I also made films.

AM: And why do you favor non-professional actors?
BL: I really like that because it requires a lot of listening. Because these actors come a bit like blank pages where they ask you to write on their pages. I don’t want someone who fully understands the directions. On the contrary, you take people where you perceive a form of richness and singularity. It is this richness that interests me, and the work that it requires of me is less of a work of direction, and more of a work of listening and attention. To understand what they are like, and to try to preserve this treasure without damaging it.