Cannes: New films by Ken Loach and Mati Diop

19-05-2019 08:05

Right in the middle of the fight, on the one side roaring colleagues, on the other tense policemen, all prepared for the worst. So Stephane Brizé 2018 with “strike” current political arguments in the Cannes competition. Now you can prove that you do not have to stand in the middle of the fray, that you can tell the conflicts of our time more precisely and even more acutely from the margins: Ken Loach's “Sorry We Missed You” about a parcel courier who lives in self-exploitation. Economy is rubbed, and Mati Diops “Atlantique” about a circle of friends in Dakar, Senegal, which is torn apart by flight and bizarrely reassembled.

“If you decide to escape, you're already dead.” It is a sentence from her semi-documentary short “Atlantique” from 2009, which pervades the long-film debut of the Frenchwoman Mati Diop. A young Senegalese told him then, years before refugee boats capsized in the Mediterranean began to dominate the news and collective imagination.

In her feature film Diop, daughter of a Senegalese, thinks this sentence now. What if dying really does not start in the Mediterranean, but in Africa? In cities, in families, in relationships?

An amazing spook

It could be called what causes “Atlantique” in the following. Angry workers of a large construction site, who have not received any salary for four months, determine the first pictures. But the argument, the indignation only seem to be details of a larger panorama. The story of Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), a young woman from poverty, who is promised to a man from the upper classes, unfolds. Ada is not in love, but her friends encourage her to marry anyway: what other options does she have?

Then the girlfriends' partners disappear, a wedding bed ignites spontaneously, and the ghostly mood that initially fueled Fatima Al Qadiri's suspenseful soundtrack literally takes shape: in the glowing nights of Dakar, people and spirits meet.

At the end of this amazing haunt, the missing wages that were claimed at the beginning are paid out. Causes and consequences of flight flow into each other, a circle closes, but without bringing with it a false sense of completion and reconciliation – spirits are finally among us.

Mame Bineta Sane in

Festival de Cannes

Mame Bineta Sane in “Atlantique”

Such a film about the phantasmagoric about migration has not yet been seen – whether only a young black woman with Senegalese connections could make it? The best argument, biography and creative performance not counted against each other, just Ken Loach.

With the now seventeenth film in the competition, the 82-year-old seems to be the epitome of privileged old white man. But not only is Loach last as successful as he has not been anymore – with “I, Daniel Blake” he won the Golden Palm in 2016 – he even surpasses his new film “Sorry We Missed You”.

For father Ricky (Kris Hitchen) the job as a driver at a parcel delivery service is a dream: good earnings, not a boss and above all no dependence on the welfare state. Ricky is too proud of that. And perhaps it is his pride that blocks his view that his new freedoms are damned like new dependencies. Rushing from address to address, arguing in turns with police or troubled customers, there is not even time to piss – let alone for the family who wanted to buy Ricky's house from the new job.

The devil in detail

However, it is the family that focuses on Loach and his regular author Paul Laverty. Because the devouring everyday life of package carriers can imagine anyone who has ever opened the door to a panting man with a package and a scanner in his hand. Instead, “Sorry We Missed You” shows the social decomposition that drives the so-called gig economy.

Ricky and his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), a freelance geriatric nurse, sleep together in front of the TV – that's their kind of “quality time”. For the children, a message on the mailbox and a Tupperdose with noodles remain. After three weeks, the ten-year-old daughter starts to go back to bed.

“Sorry We Missed You” can do without the dramatic rashes that made “I, Daniel Blake” so impressive, but sometimes computational. The kind of dense description that Loach succeeds here is no less effective. Because the devil is really here in detail and scares in the most inopportune moments. An emergency in the family? Then it's not just a matter of taking the loss of earnings away, but of organizing replacements yourself – or paying 100 pounds.

“I, Daniel Blake” had in the UK for a debate about grievances in the local job centers worried. “Sorry We Missed You” could now shake up more people because it shows abuses that have seized throughout Europe.

Udo Kier in

Festival de Cannes

Udo Kier in “Bacurau”

In addition to such strong, even formally independent cinema, the more genre-conforming attempts in the Cannes competition to disclose social explosive power fade away. The French newcomer Ladj Ly still tries Victor Hugo to provide his banlieue gangster ripper “Les Misérables” with classic social drama nimbus. Glue Mendonza Filho blows in “Bacurau” equal to the commercially organized hunt for a village community in the Brazilian hinterland.

But that can scarcely be frightening. For real horror, after five days of Cannes hold on, there are no shoot-outs, zombies or Vorstadtkrawalle – it is enough Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon.