×

Film Review: ‘Those Who Jump’

A refugee from Mali trying to scale the fortified walls around the Spanish enclave of Melilla is given a camera to record his story.

With:
Abou Bakar Sidibe. (French, Bambara dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5490380/reference

Searching for a more honest means of capturing the refugee experience, docu helmers Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner hit upon the clever idea of handing the camera over to a Malian emigrant, Abou Bakar Sidibe, and stepping away. The result, “Those Who Jump,” is one of the most authentic films on this highly charged topic: The attempts by sub-Saharan men to scale the wall separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla are filmed as autobiography, bypassing the usual subject/object problems generally ignored by most documentaries. Produced by the team behind Joshua Oppenheimer, “Jump” also becomes a cinematic essay on the awakening of visual senses, further cementing its appeal as a popular fest item.

Though the topic is more globally hot-button than the Indonesian purges explored by Oppenheimer, the pic is unlikely to generate the same attention and theatrical play as “The Act of Killing,” simply because it’s less slick (and considerably less chilling, notwithstanding the emotions involved). For many, though, the roughness will be part of its appeal: When Sidibe first starts filming, he doesn’t know how to set up shots, and he’s not even sure what to film. Yet in relatively short order, he develops an understanding of framing and also begins to see the camera as a means of asserting his individuality. Though an unexpected byproduct of the experiment, this discovery of his own pictorial acumen becomes one of the docu’s key selling points.

Siebert and Wagner met Sidibe in one of the makeshift camps on Mount Gurugu, where thousands of migrants risk life and limb scaling fortified fences that were erected to keep refugees out of Melilla. Faced with razor wire and aggressive security, these men living in a sort of purgatory as they repeatedly attempt to make the jump: They know life in Europe won’t be easy, but it will be infinitely better than the hell at home. When the two directors met Sidibe, he’d been camping on Gurugu for over a year, ever determined to make a successful crossing. He was given money (so he wouldn’t sell the camera for much-needed food and such) and told to shoot.

It’s a frequently tedious life on the slopes, spent scrounging for food, lining up for water, and preparing for the next attempt to get over the wall. Occasionally, soccer matches lift the spirits — the camps have a certain order, and are divided by nationality — but the Moroccan police become more hostile, regularly burning the improvised shelters in an unsuccessful attempt to discourage the refugees from making the mountain a way-station to Europe. Because it’s all from Sidibe’s p.o.v., as an equal to his fellow refugees, there’s something of a sense of three-dimensionality about these men, seen as more than simply would-be wall jumpers.

Sidibe’s unsuccessful attempts to climb over understandably generate an atmosphere of depression, accompanied by near-constant fear, and he speaks of frequent nightmares in which he’s forced to return to Mali. In the end, he was one of the lucky ones, and after making it into Europe, he recorded a French voiceover that describes the camp and his moods.

But it’s how he discovers an appreciation for what he’s seeing through the camera lens that makes “Those Who Jump” a film to engage multiple emotions. As a rudimentary understanding of framing kicks in, he begins noticing the world around him in a new way: “I feel I exist when I film,” he says, hopefully reminding auds that the anonymous refugees in the news have names, and stories, and dreams as potent as their own.

Film Review: 'Those Who Jump'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 19, 2016. (Also in True/False Film Festival.) Running time: 80 MIN. (Original title: “Les Sauteurs”)

Production: (Documentary — Denmark) A Final Cut for Real production, in collaboration with DR. (International sales: WIDE House, Paris.) Produced by Signe Byrge Sorensen, Heidi Elise Christensen.

Crew: Directed by Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner. Co-director, Abou Bakar Sidibe. Written by Sidibe, Siebert, Wagner. Camera, Sidibe; editor, Wagner; music, Sidibe; sound, Henrik Garnov.

With: Abou Bakar Sidibe. (French, Bambara dialogue)

More Film

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

  • Jon M. ChuUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Honored at Unforgettable Awards: 'One Movie Every 25 Years is Just Not F—ing Enough'

    Fresh on the heels of its Golden Globe nomination, “Crazy Rich Asians” was the talk of the evening at Kore Asian Media’s 17th annual Unforgettable Awards. Saturday’s event, which celebrates Asian-American trailblazers and their achievements in the entertainment industry, honored a host of Asian actors, directors and influencers, including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    2018 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Winners

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. are meeting today to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” List of winners below. Check back throughout the morning for updates. More Reviews Film Review: 'Bumblebee' Concert Review: [...]

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

    Box Office: 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' Narrowly Defeats 'Grinch' in Sleepy Pre-Holiday Weekend

    Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” topped a quiet weekend at the domestic box office, marking the third straight win for the animated sequel. It earned $16.2 million in its third week of release, generating $140 million since it opened over Thanksgiving. Another cartooned adventure almost gave “Ralph” a run for its money. Illumination and Universal’s [...]

  • John KrasinskiVariety Actors on Actors, Day

    John Krasinski on 'A Quiet Place': Casting A Deaf Actress Was 'Non-Negotiable'

    John Krasinski’s debut feature “A Quiet Place” tells the story of a family with a deaf child, and the “Jack Ryan” star wanted to make sure he included a deaf actor in the film. “It was a non-negotiable thing for me,” Krasinski told Rosamund Pike of the casting during their conversation for Variety‘s “Actors on [...]

  • Rosamund Pike John Krasinski

    John Krasinski and Rosamond Pike on Vulnerability and Decompressing After Tense Scenes

    John Krasinski and Rosamund Pike sat down for a conversation for Variety’s Actors on Actors. For more, click here.  In “Gone Girl,” Rosamund Pike proved she could put herself through anything. The British actress, a well-loved supporting player in “Pride & Prejudice” and “An Education,” took the lead and scored her first Oscar nomination. Four years later, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content