The River

"The River" ponders whether you can go home again, particularly if you've never been there. When Alfa kills his drug-dealer boss, his brother cryptically suggests he leave Paris and "go toward the river." He embarks on a road trip back to his disdained African roots. Pic, yet to find a distrib in France, stands little chance in the U.S.

“The River” ponders whether you can go home again, particularly if you’ve never been there. When Alfa (French rapper Stomy Bugsy) kills his drug-dealer boss in retaliation for a friend’s death, his brother cryptically suggests he leave Paris and “go toward the river.” Accompanied by sassy Senegalese cousin Marie (Auriele Coulibay), he embarks on a road trip back to his disdained African roots. Pic possesses a picaresque charm, plus feisty persona of Marie. But Bugsy is so unflaggingly morose, it’s hard to understand what Marie sees in him. Pic, yet to find a distrib in France, stands little chance in the U.S.

“River” is based on a screenplay by late Guinean writer-director David Achkar (“Allah Tantou”), with helmer Keita taking over as a labor of love. Throughout Alfa’s African journey, Keita often flashes back from the sharp-edged colors of Senegal and Guinea to the grainy, washed-out Paris of Alafa’s memories. But one senses mournful alienation is not Keita’s forte. Rather, pic rallies during scenes of casual derring-do — the recapture of a stolen truck or a jaunty escape from a vengeful Frenchman’s torture.

The River

Guinea-France

Production: A Renaissance production. Produced by Joy Fleury. Directed by Mama Keita. Screenplay, Keita, David Achkar.

Crew: Camera (color), Octavio Espirito Santo, Remi Mazet; editor, Sylvie Adnin. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (competing), May 1, 2003. Running time: 95 MIN. With Stomy Bugsy, Auriele Coulibay, Vincent Bryd Lesage, Karim Seghair.

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